Trans activist’s cathedral funeral branded ‘sacrilegious’ by New York archdiocese

Attendees of Cecilia Gentili's funeral embrace inside St Patrick's Cathedral.

The New York archdiocese has denounced the funeral of transgender activist Cecilia Gentili as “sacrilegious.”

Gentili’s funeral took place at St Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City last week (15 February), complete with a performance from Pose star Billy Porter, after the author and actress tragically passed away earlier this month, aged 52.

Her death sparked overwhelming tributes from the LGBTQ+ community and activists, who described her as an “unapologetic” example of trans joy.

Footage from the funeral showed a huge crowd of LGBTQ+ supporters honouring Gentili’s legacy of activism through songs, chanting her name, and offering praise for the work she did.

However, the pastor of St Patrick’s Cathedral, Enrique Salvo, wrote an outraged letter on Saturday (17 February) condemning the funeral, which was attended by more than than 1000 mourners.

“The Cathedral only knew that family and friends were requesting a funeral Mass for a Catholic, and had no idea our welcome and prayer would be degraded in such a sacrilegious and deceptive way,” Salvo wrote.

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“That it took place as Lent was beginning, the annual forty-day struggle with the forces of sin and darkness, is a potent reminder of how much we need the prayer, reparation, repentance, grace, and mercy to which this holy season invites us.”

St Patrick’s Cathedral held a ‘Mass of Reparation’ following the funeral at the direction of Cardinal Timothy Dolan.

“That such a scandal occurred at ‘America’s Parish Church’ makes it worse,” Salvo continued.

Conservative groups joined Salvo in condemning the funeral, with one group saying the performance by Porter was “unbelievable and sick.”

Gentili’s family hit back against the archdiocese in their own statement in which they described Cecilia’s funeral as “a radical act of love and mourning for a revolutionary saint in our community,” and accused the Church of “hypocrisy” and “anti-trans hatred”.

“We bestow sainthood upon Cecilia, for her life’s work, for how she ministered, mothered, and loved all people regardless of HIV, immigration, or employment status”, a statement shared with PinkNews reads.

“Her heart and hands reached those the sanctimonious Church continues to belittle, oppress, and chastise, and she changed the material conditions for countless people, including unhoused people and those who needed healthcare.”

In a separate statement, Porter described Gentili, who also appeared in Pose, as a leader among “an entire community of people who transformed my life forever.”

“Grief is singular, it’s individual. Please know that however you grieve is what’s right,” Porter said. “There’s no right or wrong way to grieve.

“But just make sure that you do, you allow yourself to do that, so that we can get to the other side of something that feels a bit like grace.”