Parish priest praised in Dáil for raising Pride flag outside church

Ballyfermot priest forced to remove flag after complaints to Archdiocese and ‘foul’ social media campaign

The rainbow Pride flag was raised along with the Tricolour outside  the Church of the Assumption in Ballyfermot. File image: Alan Betson / The Irish Times

The rainbow Pride flag was raised along with the Tricolour outside the Church of the Assumption in Ballyfermot. File image: Alan Betson / The Irish Times

 

Tributes have been paid in the Dáil to the parish priest of a Dublin community who raised the rainbow flag along with the Tricolour outside his church as a gesture of inclusivity for the LGBTQI+ community during Pride week.

Father Aidan Egan and the parish council of the Church of the Assumption in Ballyfermot were forced to remove the flag after complaints to the Archdiocese and “a social media campaign that in many ways was quite foul”, said People Before Profit TD Bríd Smith.

She said that some of the social media criticism or “pile-on” about displaying the flag was “quite shocking” to her and to the majority of the local community.

In response, she said the Ballyfermot Anti Racism Network and the Ballyfermot Youth Service would hold a “very positive” vigil at the roundabout outside the church on Friday at 6.30 pm in solidarity with the LGBTQI+ community in the area, “and especially with young people”.

Minister for Children Roderic O’Gorman joined Ms Smith in paying tribute. He said “I think it’s important to recognise where somebody, perhaps, goes against the grain within their own organisation in such a prominent way”.

He understood how Fr Egan decided “to fly the Pride flag with a particular recognition that members of his community, his congregation, were LGBTQI+ themselves or had family members”, who “felt excluded by the dogma” of the Catholic

Ms Smith said she defended everybody’s right to express their religion, “but I also defend the right to express within that religion their sexual and personal identity”.

She said however that that was not enough for some, pointing to “a rosary-style protest staged last Saturday” at the church.

Ms Smith raised the issue after controversy about the introduction of legislation in Hungary by prime minister Viktor Orban which bans gay people from appearing in school materials or programmes for under-18s.

The legislation, which was objected to by Ireland and 12 other EU countries, links homosexuality with paedophilia.

RTÉ ‘first’

Meanwhile, RTÉ is to broadcast the first religious service led by LGBTQI+ people in the station’s history on Sunday.

It will be led by 10 members of the Amach le Dia LGBTQI+ Christian group and will follow the usual Sunday service format of readings, prayers, and hymns. A homily will be delivered by Amach le Dia member Teagan Mac Aodhagáin.

He described Amach le Dia as “a group for LGBTQI+ Christians and allies because, obviously, our participation in most churches is not encouraged, tolerated or allowed”.

The service would be “very much like you’d see on any Sunday,” he said. “We’re taking an Old Testament reading, the psalm is actually a hymn, and then the gospel reading and sermon.We went with the liturgical readings for the date.”

With a master’s degree in intercultural theology and inter-religious studies from Trinity College, Dublin, as well as a master’s in counselling and pastoral care, the theme of his sermon will be “faith in action”.

It will also have a LGBTQI+ theme.

He agreed that the attitude of the churches to gay people “makes things difficult, but my Christianity is about my relationship with God not about my relationship with the church.”

Churches, he said, “are institutions and institutions are very slow to change so, whilst we have a lot of supportive and affirming friends, that makes me hopeful that things will change. I think people need to be more open in their support.”

Amach le Dia members include a variety of LGBTQI+ people, along with straight allies.

The service will be on RTÉ One television at 11am on Sunday and RTÉ Radio I Extra.