Locals have rallied at a Dublin church this Friday evening, after its parish priest was subjected to a “nasty” reaction for flying a Pride flag.
Ballyfermot residents turned out at the Our Lady of the Assumption parish church in support of the decision of the parish pastoral council and priest Fr Adrian Egan to fly a rainbow Pride flag and the Tricolour side by side.
The flags were later removed on the advice of the Dublin Catholic archdiocese, which pointed out that the papal or national flag can only be flown on church grounds in the archdiocese “on special occasions”.
Images of the flags posted by the parish on social media drew an online backlash described by Fr Egan as “aggressive and hostile and nasty,” and a rally was organised in support of the priest and his church.
— Cllr Hazel De Nortúin (@HazelPBP) June 25, 2021
Local People Before Profit TD Brid Smith told Newstalk radio that protests against the flag were not a true reflection of the people of Ballyfermot.
“A protest of about 50 people with some banners and saying the rosary appeared outside the church, criticising the parish priest for his views on this,” she said.
“He has since had to defend [his views], there’s been copious articles written that interviewed him and he’s done fine interviews, illustrating why he stands with people who have an identity that’s different to others, and they may be a minority but they’re important to us and they’re loved in our community.”
Ms Smith said this evening’s rally was a celebration of different identities.
“People have sons, daughters, granddaughters, sisters, brothers, you know, mothers, fathers, all families have experience of the need to be liberating about your sexuality and your identity, and that’s what this is about – we’re celebrating it tonight,” she said.
— Cllr. Tina MacVeigh PBP 🇵🇸 (@TinaMacVeigh) June 25, 2021
Speaking in a weekend homily, Fr Egan said he was told that the parish was “doing the Devils work and we were advocates of Satan” in the course of the backlash that followed the flags.
“We were advocates of sodomy and of paedophilia and all kinds of things,” he said, according to The Irish Times.
“Because I’m the parish priest some of it came directed at me. I was the anti-Christ, the heathen, I should be ashamed, I should be removed, I should be dismissed and somebody said to me ‘enjoy the next time it snows because you won’t see it where you’re going to’,” he said.
“It did get to me, I will admit.”
He said the archdiocese “obviously had been getting flak over this too” and phoned to point out its protocols and that the flags should be taken down.
Fr Egan said everybody “was welcome in the company of Jesus. Jesus turned nobody away and as long as I’m parish priest here that will always be the case”.
“And I am very proud that we have a parish pastoral council too that is willing to take risks to proclaim that message,” he said.
He explained how June, Pride Month, was a significant time for gay people. He and the parish pastoral council were “conscious that there were gay men and women who live in our parish and their families and they’ve often told us how hurt they’ve been maybe by the language that the church has sometimes used in regard to them and how maybe they sometimes feel there’s no place for them here and they feel excluded”.
They decided to put up the Irish flag and the rainbow flag in the hope that seeing them “might become a visual sign from outside” for gay people “that they might feel ‘oh, I’m being remembered, I’m being lifted up in God’s house. Maybe I am welcome there’.”
“That was our plan, that was our intention,” the priest said.