On his return to the pulpit Sunday, the Rev. Alberto Cutié tried to say hello to his new congregation.
First came the standing ovation. Then, cheering. And the cameras, held high in the air, as though at a rock concert, capturing every moment.
Inside the tiny Episcopal Church of the Resurrection of Biscayne Park, more than 300 people — more than three times the normal attendance — turned out to greet him for Sunday morning service.
Cutié looked out at the crowd and said, “I am humbled by your presence here.”
The priest nicknamed “Father Oprah’’ gave his first sermon since famously leaving the Roman Catholic Church after published photographs showed him nuzzling a woman on a Florida beach.
Unlike in Catholicism, Episcopal priests can marry.
Meanwhile, his former church in Miami Beach continued to grapple with the departure of Cutié, who gained media fame across the Spanish-speaking world doling out relationship advice on television, radio and in print.
At his new Biscayne Park church, Cutié delivered a sermon that spoke of common themes — God’s love, faith and perseverance — and tossed in a few lighter moments referring to his departure from the Catholic Church.
At one point, Cutié spoke of a captain lost at sea for so long he ran out of water for his crew. Another ship came by and told the ship’s crew to lower their buckets. The captain thought this was crazy.
Except, it turns out, the ship had wandered into an area with fresh water.
It was a theme he returned to several times — the love of God is all around. But first we must lower our buckets.
Afterward, Cutié spoke with churchgoers in a separate luncheon area where parishioners hugged him, kissed him and posed with him for photographs.
By his side was Ruhama Buni Canellis, 35, who he introduced as his fianceé.
The couple left through a back door, escorted by police.
Harsher words came from Archbishop John C. Favalora. Pastors in South Florida read a letter from Favalora during Sunday services indicating his disappointment with the switch.
“Father Cutié’s actions have caused grave scandal within the Catholic Church, harmed the Archdiocese of Miami — especially our priests — and led to division within the ecumenical community and the community at large,” read the statement, originally issued Thursday.
At St. Francis de Sales Catholic church, Cutié’s former church, a round of applause greeted the archbishop’s words.
“I feel betrayed, disappointed and let down by Cutié, but I understand that he is human,” said Anne Burgess, 28, a member of St. Francis. She added that she does not plan to hear any of Cutié’s sermons as an Episcopalian. “I come to the church for my faith, not for a celebrity priest.”
In fact, the former priest’s name was not mentioned until the last five minutes of the hourlong, internationally televised Mass. It was his replacement, the Rev. Juan Carlos Ríos, who briefly addressed the attendants of the midday Mass.