MIAMI - A popular Miami priest and media personality known as "Father Oprah" has left the Catholic Church and joined the Episcopal Church after he was photographed cavorting on the beach with his girlfriend.
The Rev. Alberto Cutie (pronounced KOO'-tee-ay) was removed from his Miami Beach church after photos of him kissing and embracing a woman appeared in the pages of a Spanish-language magazine earlier this month.
He was received into the Episcopal Church in a ceremony yesterday at Trinity Cathedral and may later announce that he will marry his girlfriend, which is allowed in that denomination. He must complete other requirements before serving as an Episcopal priest.
Cutie spoke briefly at a press conference and read a statement in English and Spanish. He quoted from the book of Psalms and said, "More than ever, I'm assured that God is love."
He continued, "I have searched my soul and sought God's guidance for a long time."
Before walking away without answering questions, Cutie thanked supporters and asked the media to respect his privacy.
"I thank God for the many people in our community who have shown me their love and support," Cutie said in a statement released earlier yesterday. "Your prayers have truly sustained me at this time of transition in my life. With God's help, I hope to continue priestly ministry and service in my new spiritual home."
Cutie has previously said that he supports the Catholic Church's stand that priests should be celibate and does not want to become the "anti-celibacy priest."
The Cuban-American priest was born in Puerto Rico and previously hosted shows on Telemundo. He is also a syndicated Spanish-language columnist and author of the book "Real Life, Real Love: 7 Paths to a Strong, Lasting Relationship."
He headed the archdiocese's Radio Paz and Radio Peace broadcasts, heard throughout the Americas and in Spain, and earned the nickname "Father Oprah" for his relationship advice.
Earlier this month, Cutie told CBS that he has been romantically involved with the woman in the photos for about two years, after being friends for much longer.
"I believe that I've fallen in love and I believe that I've struggled with that, between my love for God, and my love for the Church and my love for service," Cutie said.
After the scandal, more than 100 people gathered outside Cutie's former parish in Miami Beach, waving posters and chanting their forgiveness following the scandal. *