'Married' in April, Fr. Giuliano Costalunga is yet to be laicized by his bishop
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Costalunga was in charge of the parishes of Selva di Progno e Giazza until three years ago. Old press reports show that he created controversy among his flock for being "too modern" and for "having divided the community." Corriere della Seradescribed him as "a young priest with revolutionary ideas," and some of the parishioners referred to him as "the devil dressed in holy water." The priest even went on a local TV show in 2015 to talk about the reactions to his leadership and present a dance group he helped create in his parishes.
In April, he married his "notable collaborator," an assistant he had met during his years of active ministry.
Reportedly, when Costalunga announced his wedding, he said, "Finally, after 10 years, my dream has come true" — revealing Costalunga had been a homosexual for at least a decade. It was with "profound shame" that Bp. Giuseppe Zenti, bishop of Verona, confirmed the facts of Costalunga's "marriage."
"It's a really sad affair, for him and for our Church," he said. "My predecessor had impeded his ordination, but Costalunga then went to be ordained in Rieti [in Lazio, a diocese close to Rome]."
The bishop added, "Certainly, his personal case is a very sad and a very difficult one. He hasn't asked to be laicized so he's still a priest: If he doesn't come forward soon, then we'll have to act officially."
The bishop's version was denied by Costalunga's lawyer, Alex Dal Cero: "The choice to marry his partner was elaborated by Mr. Costalunga as a free citizen, and only after he formally communicated his decision to leave the clerical state."
According to Il Fatto Quotidiano, who consulted the lawyer, the priest had sent a registered letter to the diocese informing the bishop of his desire to leave the priesthood in February.
Zenti spoke more at length with Avvenire, the Italian Bishops' Conference newspaper:
I have already been warned by Fr. Costalunga’s lawyer not to intervene, as "these are aspects of Mr. Costalunga’s private life." Therefore it’s even harder for me to be expose this through declarations I would've preferred not to make. ... [A]fter my installation in this diocese, followed by serious consultation with collaborators, and as a sign of trust in Fr. Giuliano Costalunga, I incardinated him. And I have been as close to him as possible. Consequently, I can’t hide all of my bitterness, which I would've rather kept in the silence of the bleeding heart of a father. There’s nothing left for me to do other than to entrust him [Costalunga] to the mercy of God.
Avvenire also confirmed the bishop's statements regarding the obstacles in Costalunga’s ordination: In 1995, Bp. Attilio Nicora refused to ordain Costalunga, who managed to be ordained anyway in 1996 in a different diocese. In 2000 the priest returned to Verona, where he worked as a parochial vicar and religion teacher. Once incardinated he took over the parishes of Selva di Progno e Giazza, which he left in 2015. Bishop Zenti is scheduled to be in Selva di Progno e Giazza next Thursday to speak to parishioners about the scandal.