Miami's 'Father Oprah' confesses: 'I'm in love'

The Rev. Alberto Cutie acknowledged Friday that he was in love with a woman and has no regrets about the relationship, even though the romance has jeopardized his career as a Catholic priest.

"Do I feel bad about it? . . . No," he said emphatically in a televised interview with Spanish-language network Univision.

The interview was done by Aqui y Ahora co-anchor Teresa Rodriguez.

"I can say, with sincerity, that she's a woman I love," he said, noting he had known the woman, Ruhama Buni Canellis, a 35-year-old Miami Beach resident, for 10 years.

He also said only he was to blame for his actions, which he knew would draw criticism from the public.

"I am the only one responsible for that," he said. "It was never my intention to hurt anyone."

Reached via e-mail, Archdiocese of Miami spokeswoman Mary Ross Agosta did not respond for comment about the interview, but she has said it would leave it up to Cutie to decide his future as a priest.

The interview comes only days after the Miami archdiocese removed the personable and telegenic Miami priest from his duties at St. Francis de Sales Catholic church.

Archdiocese officials made the move after pictures appeared in a Mexican magazine showing Cutie and a woman frolicking on the beach, holding hands and kissing each other.

The identity of the woman became public on Thursday when several media outlets reported her name.

Canellis issued a statement Friday afternoon pleading with the media to leave her alone, but she did not disclose the nature of her relationship with the priest.

"As a single mother, I ask that the members of the media respect my privacy and the privacy of my 14-year-old son," Canellis said.

"I want to thank my family, my friends and so many others for their outpouring of love and support. I ask that everyone continue to pray for us. Thank you."

The controversy over Cutie's relationship with a woman became public this week when Spanish-language magazine TVnotas published pictures of Cutie on a beach with the then unidentified woman.

The magazine's cover showed the 40-year-old priest on his back in blue shorts with a long-brown-haired woman in a dark bathing suit wrapping her legs around him.

Other pictures, which TVnotas says were taken over a three-day period in March, included one particularly attention-grabbing shot that shows Cutie reaching into his companion's swimsuit bottom. Still another shows the couple kissing at an unidentified terrace bar.

Reaction to Cutie's removal from his parish and the published pictures was strong, with most people supporting the priest and criticizing the Catholic church for requiring priests to take a vow of celibacy.

His popularity comes from his work in Spanish-language television and radio. He hosts a weekly television show on the GenTV, a weekly radio program on the Catholic Church's Radio Paz and pens a weekly column for El Nuevo Herald. He's also an author, having published a self-help book in 2006.

In short, he's a celebrity priest. In a 1999 Newsweek magazine article, Cutie dubbed himself "Father Oprah" in reference to famous talk-show host Oprah Winfrey.


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