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A Brazilian Catholic priest who was ex-communicated for refusing to retract his support for homosexuals has slammed his hierarchy for "homophobia" and intolerance.
The Bauru diocese in Sao Paulo state announced the decision against Father Roberto Francisco Daniel on Monday, accusing him of "heresy" and "schism."
"Luckily burning at the stake no longer exists! Otherwise that would have been my fate," the 48-year-old priest said in an interview with the daily O Globo published Tuesday.
The controversy surfaced as the world's biggest Catholic country prepares to welcome Pope Francis in late July for World Youth Day, a major Catholic youth fest.
"Father Beto," as his parishioners call him, announced on social networks over the weekend that he was giving up the priesthood, urging the Church to modify its views on homosexuality and bisexuality to adapt to "new realities."
"My goal is to develop a theological discussion to stop using the analysis of Biblical texts for discrimination," he told o Globo.
"Today, sexual diversity exists and there are many Biblical texts that can no longer be viewed as the word of God," he added.
In videos he posted online, the priest appears smiling, a glass of beer in his hand, and often sporting a t-shirt with the effigy of revolutionary icon Che Guevara.
"For me it has become impossible to live the Gospel in an institution where freedom of thought and freedom of expression are not respected," he said, accusing the Catholic Church of "remaining homophobic even though it includes so many homosexuals."
Meanwhile Toni Reis, president of the Brazilian Association of Gays, Lesbians and Transexuals, condemned the ex-communication of Father Beto as "unacceptable and a deplorable error".
"As a Catholic and gay leader, I say this is a step back by the church which preaches love and solidarity but besmirches someone who calls for respect for others. You would think we are still under the Inquisition," he told AFP.
"The Catholic Church should first worry about the exodus of its faithful," he said, expressing hope that Father Beto becomes "an example for the world."