Who Should Get to Sing for Pope Francis in Ireland?

A minor feud has broken out between Irish pop stars over who gets to sing for Pope Francis when he visits Ireland for the World Meeting of Families at the end of the month. Perhaps not surprisingly, LGBT issues are involved in the dispute.

The Festival of Families, a signature event of every World Meeting of Families, is a two-hour long concert blending music with faith in celebration of  the week-long catechetical conference which precedes it.  The concert is expected to draw 75,000 people this year. Several big-name stars will sing at the August 25th performance at Croke Park Stadium, in addition to sets by local musicians, an orchestra, and traditional and contemporary Irish dancers from across the country. But perhaps the biggest star people come to see will be Pope Francis himself.

Daniel O’Donnell

Because the pope will be part of the audience,  Irish Catholic performers are taking the event very seriously.

One musician who was not chosen is James Kilbane, a runner-up on Irish singing contest “You’re A Star.” Kilbane describes himself as a “devout Catholic, , and he has loudly criticized the selection of musician Daniel O’Donnell because O’Donnell supported same-sex marriage in Ireland’s successful marriage equality referendum in 2015.  Kilbane believes O’Donnell’s support disqualifies him from performing for the pope.

Kilbane told The Irish Sun:

“How can Daniel O’Donnell perform for the Pope when his ‘Yes’ stance in the gay marriage referendum was directly opposed to the Catholic Church here? What’s more, I believe Daniel O’Donnell’s ‘Yes’ stance in the referendum may have influenced many Catholic people to vote ‘Yes’ in the referendum. Of course everybody is entitled to their opinion and democratic vote, but I think the organisers of this event have questions to answer about this choice of act. . . . How can some artists be at odds with the beliefs of the Catholic Church and yet be booked for a high profile event in front of the Pope?”

Kilbane’s bitterness seems to be a bit reductionist, only seeing O’Donnell’s worth as a performer by how strictly he adheres to Catholic teaching.

In response to Kilbane’s public uproar, O’Donnell told The Irish Sun:

“I just feel we’re discriminating against a lot of people who feel their lives would be better. I can’t see anything on the other side that will be detrimental. All of the people who know what they’re talking about are telling us that it’s absolutely no difference who brings up the children, as long as they’re brought up in a loving environment.”

Yet Kilbane’s isn’t the only outrage to be voiced after the musical selections for the Festival of Families had been made.  Another dispute has erupted, though this one has nothing to do with LGBT issues.

Fr. Ray Kelly, a parish priest in Oldcastle, County Meath, Ireland became a celebrity in Ireland after he went viral in 2014 with a video of him singing the popular Leonard Cohen song “Hallelujah” for a wedding.

However, despite being a Catholic priest and an Internet superstar, Kelly was not chosen to sing at the Festival of Families. He feels slighted after Nathan Carter will be performing, and singing REM’s “Everybody Hurts” – which Kelly sang on a 2018 episode of Britain’s Got Talent.

Father Ray Kelly

Father Kelly told The Irish Sun:

“I was completely shocked when I heard Nathan was doing ‘Everybody Hurts.’ He should back off singing ‘Everybody Hurts.’ He should do his own song.

“Nathan has no history of performing ‘Everybody Hurts.’ He has never recorded it and I’m sure he is well aware of my performances on Britain’s Got Talent.If I was as big as Nathan Carter, and he was me, I would never do this to another performer. I’m shocked but my parishioners have also been calling me to say they are outraged about him taking my song.

”My hope is that Nathan will do a brilliant job on it but my own personal view, is that not having performed it in public before, I’m not sure he will put the emotion in it.”

In 2015, 62% of Ireland voted to legalize same-sex marriage in a nationwide referendum. Ireland, a heavily Catholic nation, has still been struggling in those three years to incorporate positive views of LGBT people – -especially when religion is involved.

Despite these controversies, it may be a positive sign that Daniel O’Donnell was chosen as a performer for the Festival of Families. Since they had to be aware of his public “yes” vote in the referendum, the World Meeting of Families still chose him to sing for the pope.

Considering that the World Meeting of Families Dublin hasn’t been too receptive of LGBT issues , this decision is a tiny step forward.   Just like the decision to invite Fr. James Martin, SJ, to speak about  LGBT-affirming parishes, this step shows that the organizers are aware that they need to be make some gestures of welcome to LGBT families.

Bondings 2.0 will be providing complete coverage of LGBT issues of the World Meeting of Families all next week.  To read all about the various developments concerning this event and LGBT issues, click here.

Lindsay Hueston, New Ways Ministry, August 13, 2018

3 replies
  1. john Hilgeman
    john Hilgeman says:

    Reminds me of the story of John and James coming to Jesus and asking that one sit on his right and the other on his left when he comes into his glory. Also reminds me of the story of the son who was very upset when his father welcomed his dissolute brother home with a feast.

    • Friends
      Friends says:

      The parable of the “Lost Brother” who was welcomed back by his father is surely one of the most beautiful parables in Scripture. Who among us has not felt, at some time in our life, that we were in fact a profligate family member, who was not even worthy of forgiveness and redemption? And yet, in this parable, the lost son is welcomed home by his father, once the son repents of his wayward life, and seeks reconciliation and forgiveness. The jealous brother is the “outsider” here. But the father himself is the one who truly understands and celebrates God’s own kindness and mercy toward those who have a true reformation of their intentions.


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