Italian Priest Holds Joint Funeral for Gay Couple Killed in Tragic Accident

Luca Bortolaso and Alex Ferrari

A joint funeral has been celebrated for a gay Italian couple after their tragic death, and the presiding priest focused on the families’ grief of losing their two loved ones.

Alex Ferrari and Luca Bortolaso died from carbon monoxide poisoning while spending the New Year’s holiday at a vacation home with two other friends.

Families of the men, who had been engaged for over a year, requested a joint funeral which was approved by the presider and affirmed by the Vicenza diocese.

According to TodayFr. Roberto Castegnaro, the presider, explained his decision about the funeral, which was held January 5th at the Church of San Giovanni Battista in Arzignano, Italy, :

“There is respect for what their relationship was: we certainly do not consider them as public sinners. The Church condemns public homosexuality. I did not know either of them directly, but I do not think this was the case.”

Castegnaro told that he learned the two men were a couple only after accepting the families’ request for a joint funeral, adding:

“‘[B]ut for me it does not change anything. I repeat, it is the drama of two existences broken up too early and I will have to work hard to spread the message of faith in such a tragic moment. . .I will only think of the homily after having met and talked with Luca’s family, whom I will meet this afternoon. Based on this, I will choose from the sacred texts readings that can help comfort those who tomorrow will be crying at the disappearance of these two boys.'”

Fr. Alessio Graziani, a spokesperson for the Diocese of Vincenza, affirmed Castegnaro’s decision, reported L’Arena:

“The choice of celebrating the funeral of Alex and Luca together responds to the specific request of their families to whom the Church at this moment of immense sorrow wishes to be close with the words of faith. Following the death of two young people, every other comment seems inappropriate. We respect the pain of these families and friends of the two boys and pray with them and for them by entrusting them to God who only truly knows the heart of every person.'”

Italian Senator Monica Cirinnà, a central figure behind the country’s civil unions law, said the families of Luca and Alex “are a virtuous example for all, they love and respect their children with dignity even in extreme pain.”

The decision to hold a joint funeral for the couple is precisely the type of pastoral care for which Pope Francis has called for nearly four years. Frs. Castegnaro and Graziani’s words focus repeatedly on the need to accompany Luca and Alex’s loved ones as they grieve this immense tragedy. Their care is marked by an attentiveness to the people of God’s concrete lives and a merciful response especially to those people who are suffering. They understand, with the blessing of Vincenza’s Bishop Beniamino Pizziol, that accompaniment comes before all else.

This decision is notable, too, for the contrast it provides against church leaders seeking to deny the Sacraments to LGBT people. Two U.S. dioceses have released guidelines which bar Catholics in same-gender civil marriages from being granted funerals. The Diocese of Madison led by Bishop Robert Morlino released its guidelines in October of last year, suggesting that in some cases a Mass for the Dead which does not even name the deceased might be appropriate. Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield released similar funeral guidelines on the anniversary of the Orlando Pulse Nightclub massacre.

Luca and Alex’s deaths are tragic incidents, especially given their young age. Thankfully, their families and friends could at least together celebrate the couple’s lives and their love. In this welcoming act by the Church, those grieving will hopefully find the consolation of God’s love that brings healing.

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, January 9, 2017

10 replies
  1. Kris
    Kris says:

    May God grant them in Paradise the fulfilment of their love for each other, for all love that is faithful and self-sacrificing is an imitation of his own.

    And may his love (and theirs) reach out to console their families and friends.

  2. Richard G Evans
    Richard G Evans says:

    Perhaps I am truly getting older. No doubt I am, as what some would term a “young senior citizen.” I own that.. But to me these two young men, and most from that generation in fact, look like little more than children to me–children of an age where everything from gender roles to relationships are daily viewed differently and with more complexity than ever before. They could easily be my grandchildren. Whatever one’s view on same sex marriage and civil unions, and to be clear I support them totally, it is unimaginable that in at least 4 US Dioceses they would have either been granted only a private anonymous funeral or none at all. Jesus said “let the little children come to Me and forbid them not.” They are with Him now and He has already judged them according to His Mercy–and I believe accepted them into His Kingdom. I will not attend a parish that would do otherwise, Catholic or not. And that is precisely because I love the Catholic Church, not the other way around. I believe She can do better and must. But if I die tomorrow I know–know–that my St Luke’s Episcopal Church here in Minneapolis would send me forth with both style and reverence for my eternal soul. Some still believe that I have “left the Church” and they are incorrect. It is those who cannot stomach the pastoral concerns of the Holy Father, who happens to be Pope Francis currently, but hopefully future Popes will follow in his genuinely progressive footsteps,who have either left the Church or were never there in the first place. I could not feel stronger about this than if I written the words of this article myself. May these two souls rest in the peace of Christ.

  3. John Hilgeman
    John Hilgeman says:

    What a tragic loss!

    This is what Catholic Churches should be doing. Honoring the love of couples and their families. And grieving with the families and friends over their loss. Anything less than this is unchristian.

  4. Deacon Thomas Smith
    Deacon Thomas Smith says:

    Wonderful news. But…Conditional Love is not really Christian! This sacrament was granted ONLY because they were not “public” about their homosexuality.

      • Deacon Thomas Smith
        Deacon Thomas Smith says:

        Protestant churches generally tout “All Are Welcome” in their ads, and my experience is that this is true. I see gay couples ( and female clergy) easily blending in well in our local Episcopal, Lutheran and UCC churches. They’ve already had the “difficult dialogue” in leadership circles and are moving on to the real work of the Church. Ours, however, seems to remain stuck in this endless anthropological/theological debate. Unfortunately, at this point, ALL are NOT welcome in our Beloved RCC. Keep the “encounter” going.

  5. Jonathan Murray
    Jonathan Murray says:

    A terrible tradgedy of a couple in love , so young at the beginning of their lives. Christianity affirms this as true love and all ‘judgement’ is nonesense and has no place in the church at all. WE should feel and pray for the families and loved ones left with such a tradgedy to live with.

  6. Sr Soami deLux
    Sr Soami deLux says:

    i think you are missing the point, Deacon. And it begs the question many TLGBIQA folks will have in wondering if their carbon monoxide death was accidental or suicidal. We know too painfully how many of our queer youth opt for early death because of so called Christian love that is truly hateful and shaming. And it must stop, Deacon Smith, it must STOP!

    • Deacon Thomas Smith
      Deacon Thomas Smith says:

      The circumstances of their deaths are another question, Sister. Depression, drug abuse and suicide are well-documented affects of the spiritual abuse perpetrated by some in our Church. And certainly this may be the case with these dear boys. This piece, however, was more about public vs. private identity as it affects sacramental access. The “old guard” (clerical club) that perpetuates fear and ignorance is slowly dying and our bravery in speaking out against homophobia is part of this process. We agree. Nasty judgements and sacramental exclusion have no place in our Chruch.

      • Sr Soami deLux
        Sr Soami deLux says:

        heartfelt, insightful words, Deacon Smith, and i’ve no doubt solid practice informs your dedicated ministry.


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