Bishop sorry over claims priest said gay marriage vote is the 'devil's work'
A Bishop has issued a public apology after claims that a priest told his congregation the passing of the same-sex marriage referendum and divorce in Ireland was evidence of the devil working in society.
The Bishop of Ardagh and Clonmacnoise Francis Duffy said comments made by Fr Joseph Okere in St Mel's Cathedral in Longford had not been intended to hurt anyone.
In his homily, Fr Okere referred to the recent same-sex marriage referendum and is alleged to have described the passing of it as the work of the devil in Irish society.
It is claimed the priest also suggested that divorce and the breakdown of marriage were similarly satanic in origin and were leading to the destruction of humanity.
Bishop Duffy said comments were made about the referendum while reflecting on the theme of marriage.
"The language used caused offence to some people. Father Joseph did not intend to hurt anyone and is sorry for doing so. I too apologise for any insensitivity," Bishop Duffy said in a statement last night.
Edmund Byrne, who is a regular Mass-goer at St Mel's and is gay, told the Irish Independent that the priest's words were "like a slap in the face".
"I was really hurt by them and got up and walked out," he said.
"I am a Catholic and gay and I have never felt unwanted, but this was like something you would have heard 30 years ago.
"The Church just has to stop this - enough is enough."
A special meeting of the committee of Longford LGBT support group took place last night to discuss what the group described as the "extreme views" expressed.
Speaking to the Irish Independent after the meeting, Secretary Dónal MacAodh said he would have expected something like this 40 years ago.
"We thought we would have moved on somewhat," he said.
Mr MacAodh said such harsh comments impact negatively, "particularly on very young people in the closet".
Hearing such statements would "put them further back into the closet and delay them being who they truly are", he warned.
"If we want examples of where homophobic speak leads to, we had ISIS throwing four gay men off the top of a building in Iraq at the weekend," he said.
Mr MacAodh reminded the Nigerian missionary - who took up his appointment as a curate in St Mel's Cathedral on September 6 - that the Church has a duty of pastoral care to all its congregation and in making such comments "it is certainly not fulfilling that".
However, he paid tribute to the good relations between the LGBT community in Longford and the Church.