A priest in northern Italy has admitted before his flock that he has had a child with a parishioner who is separated from her husband, press reports said Saturday.
"I don't want to do like Adam and Eve did when they hid from the call of God after the original sin," the 41-year-old parish priest of the town of Monterosso near Padua, Don Sante Sguotti, told some 200 worshippers on Friday evening.
"The fruit of one's fertility should be a cause for joy," said Sguotti, who has been asked by Padua Archbishop Antonio Mattiazzo to leave the parish, home to some 800 souls.
"Maybe those who say priests are all false are right," he said. "I feel false, because it is not easy to walk alone along the path to truth. Sometimes you need to find someone to walk with."
Sguotti apparently has the support of many of his parishioners. Some young people wore T-shirts inscribed with "Don Sante Is My Priest" as he made the admission during a mass in which he stopped short of presiding over communion.
Voicing surprise over the support on Saturday, Sguotti said he was trying to "remain detached, both from those who applaud me and from those who attack me" for fathering a child with the parishioner, also in her early 40s.
"The affection makes me happy, it's normal, but it's not something absolute and could be a spur-of-the-moment response. But I have always let people form their own opinions," the priest told the ANSA news agency.
Sguotti said he would announce his response to the archbishop's request for him to leave Monterosso at a news conference there on Wednesday.
The Roman Catholic Church requires priests to be celibate, with few exceptions.