Irish gay priest to receive Distinguished Service Award

Fr Bernárd Lynch is set to be honoured with the award by President Michael D Higgins.

Irish gay priest Fr Bernárd Lynch

Fr Bernárd Lynch, a gay Irish Catholic priest, is to be honoured with the Distinguished Service Award for the Irish Abroad from President Michael D Higgins on November 21.  Originally from Ennis Co Clare and now residing in London, Fr Lynch previously met with the President as guests at a private audience in Áras an Uachtaráin in February 2017 alongside his husband, Billy Desmond, just a month after their wedding.

He will again meet with Mr Higgins this coming month to receive this prestigious award for his work with the LGBT+ community, particularly his work with people living with HIV and AIDS abroad.

Fr Lynch who joined the Society of African Missions in 1965 and was ordained six years later in 1971 has doctorates in theology, counselling and psychology and worked as a theological consultant with Dignity, the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Catholic group for 15 years.

He was well known for coming out as a gay priest as well as for his extensive work in New York during the AIDS crisis, founding the Aids/HIV Ministry of Dignity New York in 1982.

Fr Lynch worked as a member of the mayor of New York’s voluntary task force on HIV/AIDS, where he was the only Catholic priest to campaign and testify to the New York City Council for the implementation of civil rights legislation for the LGBT+ community in 1986. 

After moving to London in 1992, Fr Lynch continued to work with similar organisations for HIV and AIDS before changing career paths in 2011. Although he is still a priest, he lost his membership in the Society of African Missions in 2011 and now works as a psychotherapist in London.

In regards to the stripping of his membership, Fr Lynch stated that it was mainly due to his involvement and support of the LGBT+ community as well as his openness about his sexuality and his partner, Billy Desmond. He went on to say that he believes the decision was finalised after he took part in protests against Pope Benedict XVI visiting the UK in 2010. Despite the revoking of his membership, Fr Lynch will be presented with the Distinguished Service Award for the Irish Abroad for his work overseas.

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