Director's Pity for Priest Who Abused Him

By Richard Owen
Irish Independent
November 20, 2006

Franco Zeffirelli, the film, theatre and opera director, talked candidly about his sexuality yesterday, including the advances of a Catholic priest at his first school and his hatred of the word "gay".

His return to La Scala opera house after a long absence coincides with publication of his autobiography, which includes frank revelations about his sexuality, including the claim that Aristotle Onassis had once tried to seduce him on his yacht.

Zeffirelli, who first admitted 10 years ago that he had "sexual experiences with men", said that he had become aware of homosexuality while attending a Catholic school in Florence. Zeffirelli was brought up by his father's British secretary in Fascist-era Florence after the death of his mother. He said that he had intimate contact with a priest there. The priest, after "satisfying his desire", had knelt in tears and begged his forgiveness.

"Sexual abuse is putting it too strongly. There was no penetration. I felt sorry for the poor man. I thought the priest felt a special affection for me. He was always kissing me," Zeffirelli said.

Early homosexual experiences were "not always bad for boys", he said. "I don't think they make you a homosexual. Sexual choice is made for you early on in life anyway - if you like girls, you like girls." ( The Times, London)


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