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Tuesday 3 October 2023 Dublin: 12°C
Ballyfermot Assumption Parish Church Irish and LGBT+ Pride flags outside the Ballyfermot Assumption Parish Church
Locals to hold solidarity vigil after Ballyfermot church faced backlash for flying Pride flag
The Ballyfermot Assumption Parish Church flew a Pride flag last week to show that “all are welcome”.

BALLYFERMOT LOCALS ARE holding a solidarity vigil this week after a church received backlash online for flying an LGBT+ Pride flag on its grounds.

The Ballyfermot Assumption Parish flew an Irish flag and a Pride flag outside its entrance last week as an effort to show that “all are welcome” in its church.

After sharing photos of the flags on social media, large numbers posted thanks or appreciation, but others sent critical or abusive messages to the church because they believed the Pride flag was “anti-Catholic”.

The church was asked by the Dublin diocese to take down the flag and was advised of a stance against flying flags on church grounds except for national flags on appropriate occasions. 

Local community groups have planned a vigil on Friday to show solidarity with the church after the criticism it faced last week.

People Before Profit Councillor for Ballyfermot-Drimnagh Hazel de Nortúin said the hateful responses to the Pride flag were “not a true reflection of the people of Ballyfermot”.

“It wasn’t supported by local people, it was more of a case of people reacting outside the community and coming in,” de Nortúin told The Journal.

The Ballyfermot Anti-Racism Network, alongside youth services and the local GAA team, are planning to “come together to show solidarity, to show we will not be tolerating that sort of behaviour in the area” and celebrate “our pride and supporting those in the area who would have been affected by this”. 

“It’s not reflective of where we’re all at,” de Nortúin said.

“I could see from the commentary online, there were a lot of young people that were very proud of their sexuality but were hurt by the nasty comments on social media,” she said.

Parish priest Father Adrian Egan told his parishioners at Sunday mass that flying the flag was part of the church’s efforts to make everyone in the community feel welcome and included.

At a meeting last Monday, the parish’s pastoral council decided to fly an Irish flag and a Pride flag outside the church, he said in his homily.

The pastoral council discussed that June is both the month of the Sacred Heart in the liturgical calendar and the “symbolism of the heart of Jesus that is inclusive of everyone”, and that “June has become a significant month for gay people”.

“We are conscious that there are 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 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,” Father Egan said in his homily.

The parish church aims to “work very hard to send out the message that this is a place of welcome for all” and to reach out to people who may not feel included.

“We decided, we’ve two flag poles out there, we’ll put up two flags – the Irish flag and the Pride flag.”

The church hung the Pride flag on Tuesday morning and removed it later in the week after receiving communication from the Dublin diocese.

The diocese told the church it has a protocol that state or national flags can be hung on appropriate occasions, but that other flags should not be flown on church grounds.

In a statement to The Journal, the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference said: “On special occasions, only the Papal flag and/or the National flag, are permitted to be flown on church grounds in the Archdiocese of Dublin eg for the celebration of the Sacrament of Confirmation.”

After raising the Pride flag, the church received comments on social media and direct communication responding to the flags, some of which were positive while others were critical of the decision.

There were “lots of messages of thanks and appreciation and support” from people who were “moved and got the message we were trying to send out”, Father Egan said at mass.

The church received other messages from people who were “confused” by why it had hung the flags – “many of those messages were very civil and respectful and polite and we were able to have good conversations and explain what we were doing.”

“A lot of other messages came in that were not so civil and polite,” Father Egan said.

“We received a lot of messages in various forms that were aggressive and hostile and nasty and loud and accusatory and condemnatory and claiming we were up to all kinds of things,” he said.

A “rosary rally” also gathered across the road from the church to protest against the Pride flag being flown.

“I want to apologise to all those genuine people who were confused by our putting the flag up and were hurt and offended by it and I hope that in the engagement we had, maybe you understand what we were at and some of your fears were allayed.

“I also need to apologise to those now who were hurt by the taking of the flag down, because an awful lot of people were very moved by it.

“To that other section and cohort who are very aggressive and difficult, I don’t know what to say about that really. At times it seems to be very orchestrated and organised between an array of different groups who network and say ring this number, make this complaint, this is happening here, put up a comment and so on.

“You get sometimes a sense that far from us proclaiming an ideology that is an anti-Church, there’s an ideology at work there that seems to me to be anti-Gospel, but we bear with it as much as we can.”

In Waterford, locals have continued to display Pride flags and symbols after flags outside the council buildings were removed and set alight, re-flown, and then cut down again.

Minister for Equality Roderic O’Gorman travelled to Waterford on Monday to meet with Mayor Damien Geoghegan and raise the city’s flag again.

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