“We have much to learn from your courage”, a Catholic priest and head chaplain of the Irish armed forces has told LGBTQI+ soldiers.

– A video message for the Dublin Pride Parade 2020

The message from Father Seamus Madigan came in a video released by the military chaplaincy for Dublin Pride Parade 2020, an event that was to have taken place Sunday June 28 but was cancelled due to the ongoing ban on mass gatherings imposed by the coronavirus pandemic.

Still, celebrations for the festival were moved online, and one of the many messages of support for the event came from Fr. Madigan, who as head chaplain of the services heads a team of 15 clergy chaplains based in Ireland, Syria and Lebanon.

Madigan was ordained for the Salesians in 1991 and was incardinated in the diocese of Limerick in 2003 when he become chaplain at Castletroy Community College.

After that assignment, Madigan ministered for nine years as a padre at Sarsfield Barracks in Limerick and served three peacekeeping tours of duty in Kosovo, Chad and Lebanon.

– “To our LGBTQI+ colleagues: your chaplaincy service is in solidarity with you, be you of any faith or none”

This year would have marked the first time the chaplaincy service of the Irish Defence Forces participated in the Dublin Pride Parade.

The Irish army consists of some 9,000 soldiers, but there is no indication of how many of those identify as LGBTQI+. However, the Defence Forces launched its first LGBT network – ‘Defend with Pride’ – in 2016, to provide support for LGBTQI+ members, to educate the Forces and make them an employer of choice for the collective, and also so that LGBTQI+ soldiers can interact with each other and organise their own events and support.

Despite the disappointment of not being able to take part physically in the Pride Parade this year, Fr. Madigan didn’t want to miss the opportunity to send a message of support to Ireland’s LGBTQi+ soldiers and to the wider rainbow community.

“It takes sunshine and rain to make a rainbow, and its beauty is it’s made up of many colors and hues all sitting together in perfect harmony”, Madigan said in his video message to the Parade.

“We’re all different, yet united in our desire for happiness, belonging, meaning, making a difference, ‘living a life less ordinary’. We all face challenges and joys that come with being alive – knowing who we are, living meaningful relationships and finding our place in the world. Our diversity is rooted in a deeper unity”, the chaplain reflected.

Madigan went on to say that this year he “was looking forward to representing the chaplaincy service in his debut appearance in the Pride event, adding that he would have felt “privileged” as Head Chaplain t”o have the opportunity to walk side-by-side with our LGBTQI+ members, showing solidarity and support”.

Despite the cancellation of the in-person event this year, Madigan took the opportunity to assure “all members of the Defence Forces, especially our LGBTQI+ colleagues… that your chaplaincy service is in solidarity with you, be you of any faith or none”.

“We seek your flourishing and happiness, and recognise that we have much to learn from your gifts, courage and experience of life”, the armed forces chaplain affirmed.

Saying that he looked forward to being present at next year’s parade, Madigan concluded: “Wishing you and your families every blessing and all that is good in life. Ní neart go cur le chéile [“There is no strength without unity”]. Take care and stay safe”.

More stories on Novena on LGBT+ issues:

Swiss lesbian Catholic theologian: “I love my Church too much to leave it in the hands of those who would rather see me gone”

Theologian says “considerable number” of Austrian bishops open to same-sex blessings

Irish gay Catholic author: “The Church is full of homosexuals at every level”

Spanish archbishop proclaims respect for same-sex families: “The Gospel never condemns”


PhD in ancient Jewish/Christian history and philosophy. University ethics lecturer with 4 years' experience in religion journalism.