gathering of love | 

LGBTQ+ campaigners gather outside Kerry church to condemn ‘hateful speech’ by Fr Sean Sheehy

The campaigners said they placed statements from the Bible, such as ‘Love one another, as I love you’, on posters but that a man from within St Mary’s removed these, saying they were ‘sinful’

Silvia Stankovic from Killarney and Dzana Raszewska from Listowel placed flowers at St Mary's Church Listowel .

6.11.2022 : Listowel Co Kerry :: Diarmaid Griffin placed a flag at St Mary's Church Listowel .

Laura Lynott and Ali

LGBTQ+ campaigners held a “gathering of love” and placed Pride flags and flowers on the railings of a Co Kerry church where last weekend Fr Sean Sheehy condemned transgenderism and same-sex couples from the altar.

One of around 60 campaigners, Dzana Raszewska (29) was heartened by the response of parishioners entering St Mary’s Church in Listowel for morning Mass today.

“People were stopping as they went into Mass and giving us flowers,” Dzana told the Irish Independent.

“That was beautiful. It made me cry to know most people supported us.

“We quietly and respectfully laid the flowers and flags outside the church. This wasn’t a protest but a gathering of love, to show there’s no room for hate. There’s only space for love.”

Dzana, who is originally from Bosnia but living in Killarney, is bi-sexual and identifies as non binary and uses the pronouns they/them. They are a Buddhist and have a “strong belief in God”.

They said it was “particularly hurtful” to hear Fr Sheehy’s “hateful speech” as “someone who believes in God”.

“His view is that someone like me shouldn’t be allowed to pray anymore because of my sexual orientation,” they said.

“That’s not okay. What about those of us who love God and want to belong to a faith? Where do we go to speak of our faith? Whether you are Catholic or Buddhist, God loves us all.

“That’s why we responded to Fr Sheehy’s words with love.”

The campaigners said they placed statements from the Bible, such as ‘Love one another, as I love you’, on posters but Dzana stated a man from within St Mary’s removed these, saying they were “sinful”.

“How could these be sinful statements when they’re from the Bible?,” Dzana asked. “It’s not okay to pick and choose from the Bible, to create statements of hate, when so much of the Bible is about loving everyone the same.”

The yoga teacher, who recently penned her first novel, Out of the Dark, said the event had been welcomed by most parishioners and it helped provide a platform for not only LTBTQ+ people but their families and friends too, who had been hurt by Fr Sheehy’s sermon.

Meanwhile Fr Sheehy led a prayer service in Tralee town square on Saturday afternoon.

The retired priest said he would continue to celebrate mass at his home to people who wished to listen to him.

The Bishop of Kerry, Ray Browne, has criticised Fr Sheehy’s comments saying “the views expressed do not represent the Christian position”.

More than 30 parishioners walked out of the mass after Fr Sheehy condemned transgenderism, same sex couples, and supplying condoms to teenagers in his sermon.

Fr Sheehy told worshippers at St Mary’s Church that gay couples were sinful, and criticised free contraception being provided by the HSE as it was “promoting promiscuity”.

Sabrina Crotty from Kingdom Pride, also laid flowers and flags at the church today.

Sabrina felt Fr Sheehy had received “too much air time” last week, after the cleric appeared back-to-back on RTÉ Radio 1 shows.

“It was lovely to see families turn out today,” Sabrina said. “The important thing was that not everyone who turned out to the demo was queer.

“Everyone there had a queer family member or friend. And they were showing solidarity for those people.”

While she “wasn’t surprised” by Fr Sheehy’s views, Sabrina said she wanted to see the media “doing a better job” by “not giving air space to transphobic and queerphobic rhetoric”.

She added that such statements were “sensationalist” and “played with hate”.

“It’s cheap and tacky and I think the media could do a lot better at countering such hatred,” she said.

The campaigners told the Irish Independent they wanted to see legislation tightened up so that hate speech was not allowed on any platform in Ireland.

They also called for Pride to be provided a prominent platform via the media in the future.

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