Alfredo Ormando

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Alfredo Ormando (15 December 1958 in San Cataldo – 23 January 1998 in Rome) was a gay writer from Palermo who died as a result of setting himself on fire outside Saint Peter's Basilica in Rome. His suicide was an act of protest against the Roman Catholic Church's ongoing condemnation of homosexuality.

Ormando's only published book was the novel Il Fratacchione ("The Overweight Monk"), which recounted Ormando's two years spent at a monastery attempting to get closer to God and to purify himself of "unclean" desires. The narrator in the book states, "It isn't true that gay is beautiful. On the contrary, it is a continual death on the inside. Either you accept being gay, or you kill yourself."[1]

On 13 January 1998, Ormando set himself on fire in St. Peter's Square close to where Pope John Paul II was addressing the crowds. Two policemen tried to extinguish the flames, and he was taken to Sant'Eugenio Hospital with third-degree burns over 90 percent of his body. He died 11 days later. Ormando was 39 years old.[2] In a letter to a friend he wrote: "I hope they will understand the message I want to give - it is a form of protest against a Church that demonises homosexuality, demonising nature at the same time; despite the fact that homosexuality is a child of nature".[3]

Authorities in the Catholic Church downplayed the event, arguing that he was psychologically disturbed, had family problems and had not been making a protest against the Church.[4]

Ormando's actions are commemorated in St Peter's Square by human rights activists[5]

In 2014, the filmmaker Andy Abrahams Wilson, produced a 40-minute film called "Alfredo's Fire" documenting Ormando's life for the San Francisco-based Open Eye Pictures. Wilson argued that, "Fire was the perfect allegory for the experiences of LGBT people. Fire is at once a self-annihilation, and harkens back to the Middle Ages when homosexuals were burned at the stake".[6]

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