A Catholic priest received a standing ovation from his congregation after he ended a sermon by announcing he's gay.
Father Martin Dolan — who has been the priest and administrator at Church of St Nicholas of Myra in Dublin, Ireland for the past 15 years — was calling on his congregation to vote for same-sex marriage in the upcoming Irish referendum, when he uttered the declaration: "I'm gay myself."
Andrew Hyland, the co-director of Marriage Equality Ireland, lives near the church, and told VICE News that while he's not personally Catholic, he knows that Dolan has always been popular among the parish.
Hyland said Dublin was buzzing with talk of Dolan's disclosure. "Everyone was delighted he did it," he said, adding that, "people are very much hopeful that he will stay in the parish."
Local community youth worker Liz O'Connor told the Irish Sun: "Father Martin has always been an advocate of people's rights, and even spoke about child abuse in the Church."
She added: "He is a man of real conviction and he doesn't back down… He speaks his mind."
Ireland's nationwide referendum on same-sex marriage is expected to be held at the end of May, though an exact date hasn't been set yet. Recent polls show that more than 70 percent of Irish people are in favor of the referendum passing, and members of all four of the country's biggest political parties have also come out in favor of it.
Tiernan Brady, policy director at Ireland's Gay and Lesbian Equality Network, told VICE News he felt Dolan's action had taken great courage. "There's no doubt there must have been a lot of trepidation in his mind, and the reaction must have been so heart-warming for him; to see your congregation give you a standing ovation and know that they got it and they appreciated it, and that they really wanted to show him that."
Brady said that Dolan's admission could spark a huge knock-on effect around the country.
"I think the one thing that has always changed minds is visibility of lesbian and gay people, so when someone you know or someone in your family comes out, that's when your perspective changes," said Brady. "That's always seen as the great catalyst for moving people towards understanding and empathizing."
"I think the standing ovation is wonderful, but it very visibly reflects what the laypersons of the Catholic Church feel," he added.
Hyland told VICE News that he felt the reaction to Dolan's coming-out was emblematic of modern Ireland. "As a country, we're predominantly Catholic and we're predominantly for same-sex marriage."
"Away from the hierarchy," Hyland said, "those things can co-exist very easily."
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