By Brenda Coelho (English translation by Rebel Girl)
August 28, 2013
A priest in Bahia surprised the faithful at Nossa Senhora da Conceição parish in Gavião, Brazil, when he announced that he would be leaving the religious life to take responsibility for his love for a young woman in the community who is pregnant by him.
At the masses last Sunday (the 25th), Gerônimo Moreira, 32, decided to read a letter announcing the decision. "As time went on, I noted that our friendship had something more -- love, but we had always tried to leave it just at the friendship level since I had said that if I perceived that I couldn't keep celibacy, I would leave the ministry before that so as not to scandalize the community. But ironically, fate didn't happen as I thought and we got involved and today she is pregnant and I want to assume responsibility for paternity," he says, in part of the letter.
Gerônimo says he met Emília Carneiro, now 23, in 2007, when he was still a seminarian. "I met her on September 20, 2007 at a youth encounter. We began a friendship and something different awakened, but I was thinking that I would be a priest and this would not be possible," Gerônimo, who grew up in a religious family and said since he was a kid that he wanted to be a priest in adulthood, remembers.
For four years, Gerônimo came to the community where Emília lived to preach. During that period, the friendship between the two grew stronger and they were frequently in touch through phone calls and messages. "I went there once a year, talked to her sometimes by phone, sometimes I sent messages, but I never suspected that anything would happen or that she would be interested in me," he reveals.
Gerônimo became a priest in November 2009 and says that during his formation he never had any doubts about his religious vocation. "My family was religious, and since I was 7 years old, I've said I wanted to be a priest. At 13 or 14, I started to fall in love and stopped talking about wanting to be a priest, but at 20, I finished high school and decided that I had to choose what to do and went to seminary in 2002," he says.
It took six years of religious training, between studies of philosophy and theology and stints in the municipalities of São Gonçalo dos Campos, Salvador and Feira de Santana. The first parish where Gerônimo served was Valente, still as a seminarian, in 2008. In 2011, he took on Gavião parish.
When he saw that his feelings for Emília were not just friendship, Gerônimo said he was in crisis. He talked with the girl, who revealed that she was also enraptured with him. "When the first kiss happened, we talked about how that should never have occurred. She was worried -- we were that way for a few days -- but we couldn't contain the urge to stay together," he declares.
Since 2012, when the first kiss occurred, Gerônimo and Emília kept their feelings secret. "Nobody suspected, and if they did suspect, they didn't talk about it. We were the only two who knew," he asserts.
Although they were afraid of people's reactions, the couple decided to reveal the relationship when Emília discovered her pregnancy back in May. "We needed to take responsibility. I immediately decided to take responsibility. We talked a lot about being scared of people's reactions; we didn't want to be a scandal to the community. Her father said that because of our friendship, he was afraid this would happen, but, because I've taken responsibility, her family has faced this more calmly," he says.
"We went through this crisis between faith and love, but after we revealed everything, I was relieved. I'm happy," Emília declares.
After the three Masses celebrated on Sunday, Gerônimo announced his resignation to the Church community. "I was very emotional and cried a lot; almost the whole church cried," he recalls.
G1 spoke with staff in the parish where Gerônimo worked and the feeling was sadness. "We're feeling a great loss. The atmosphere here is one of mourning, but we respect his decision. The revelation was a shock," said one of the staff who preferred not to reveal her name.
"We heard it formally through the bishop. Who are we to judge? When someone comes to talk to me about the case, I quote Romans Chapter 14 [from the Bible]," says another employee who knows Gerônimo.
Emília is three months pregnant and works as a secretary in a school in Bahia. Since Monday (the 26th), Gerônimo is now moonlighting as a mason, while he plans to go to college. "For now I'm working as a mason, because I only have general training in philosophy, which isn't recognized. I'm going to try engineering school because of the knowledge I already have in the field of civil construction," he explains.
Gerônimo's brother's house in Feira de Santana is being remodeled to receive the family. "Initially we're going to be a little further away from the community," he adds. The couple plans to get married in a Catholic Church but for this, he needs authorization from Pope Francis. "I'm going to make a formal petition to marry. The bishop is going to inform himself about the procedures. I think the priest needs to write a letter asking for dispensation to marry in the Church. Generally the popes grant it," he states.
About his relationship with God, Gerônimo asserts that his faith is the same. What has changed, he says, is the way of following the faith. "I'm just not going to serve as a priest, but we're going to continue to help in any way possible," he concludes.
RG- We wish this couple all the best and hope and pray for the day when the Catholic Church will abolish the celibacy requirement and Gerônimo can return to the priesthood because we think he and Emilia would make a great pastoral team!