Father Ray Kelly, 60, the “Hallelujah priest” whose performance of the Leonard Cohen hit song “Hallelujah” at a wedding mass in Oldcastle, County Meath has become an internet sensation is flabbergasted at the sudden worldwide attention.
The wedding of Chris and Leah O’Kane was proceeding normally until Father Kelly went to the altar and belted out “Hallelujah.”
The clip from the mass where he serenaded the young couple with the Leonard Cohen classic has close to 38 million views on YouTube and he is the talk of the village square in Oldcastle and all over Ireland with an appearance on the top-rated “Late Late Show” looming on Friday.
Even more than that he has made it in New York.
Speaking to the Irish Times, Kelly said “I had a phone call earlier to say my picture was on a big screen in Times Square in New York.”
Fr Kelly is also stunned by how quickly the video has gone viral. He said, “When I went to bed last night (Wednesday) the video was on less than a million views, and when I woke up five or so hours later it had nearly doubled.
“It’s phenomenal, people must have been up all night watching it.”
“I checked my email inbox and it’s full of requests; there must have been 50 or 60 giving me the details of their wedding and asking if I can attend.”
However, he is unlikely to become a performer anytime soon. “I love being a priest, and that’s always going to be my number one priority, but I would love to see if I can try and incorporate this a bit more.”
Father Kelly served as a missionary in Africa and also spent time in the U.S. before returning to Ireland. He has been in his current position as pastor in Oldcastle for eight years.
A late vocation to the priesthood, he spent ten years working for Dublin Corporation after college before deciding on the priesthood. He is celebrating 25 years in the priesthood this year.