A Catholic priest in a heavily immigrant New York community has angered some in the church after he posted a meme suggesting that those protesting President Donald Trump should commit suicide.
The meme features a tall building with a cartoon man falling off and bears the words, "Show your hate for Trump. Do it for social justice." It also includes the hashtag, "JumpAgainstTrump."
The Rev. Phillip Pizzo leads St. Benedict Joseph Labre Roman Catholic Church in Queen's Richmond Hill, the New York Post reported. He also reportedly shared photos of former President Barack Obama captioned "He's not my president" on social media.
Pizzo told the Post that he thought the meme — that was shared on Facebook Sunday after mass — was "funny" but contended that he does "not promote suicide."
"I've helped many people over the years, and it does not promote suicide," Pizzo said. "It was funny."
But in a lengthier statement Tuesday, Pizzo said:
I apologize for the hurt that I have caused over a Facebook post. I never intended it to get this kind of reaction and I regret posting it. I have been a priest for 40 years and my goal has always been to bring Christ to the people. I am prolife and any reference to suicide is contrary to my beliefs, therefore, making my post completely inappropriate. Again, please accept my sincerest apology.
Pizzo's humor is seemingly not shared by members of his parish, the Post found.
"Suicide is not funny, plain and simple," Carlos Coburn, who sought counseling from Pizzo in the past due to suicidal thoughts, said.
Coburn told the Post that while he attended the church for 20 years, he is looking for a new church after the social media gaffe.
Another parishioner told the newspaper that the priest took "it too far" by posting the meme.
Diocese of Brooklyn spokesman Vito Formica told the Post that the Facebook post was removed and does not reflect the church's opinion.
As of Tuesday afternoon, Pizzo's Facebook page is private.