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Pope Francis has addressed the controversy surrounding the Vatican’s decision to approve blessings for same-sex couples in a recent television interview.

The declaration approving same-sex blessings, which was officially released on December 18, sparked significant debate within the Catholic Church, particularly among bishops in African countries who have expressed resistance to implementing it.

Pope Francis emphasised that misunderstandings often fuel resistance to such decisions. He noted that opposition often arises from a lack of comprehension rather than the decision itself. Speaking on Italy’s Channel 9 program “Che Tempo Che Fa,” the Pope suggested that those opposing the declaration might jump to “ugly conclusions” because they have not fully grasped its implications and intent.

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The Pope’s discussion comes after the Vatican’s doctrinal department, with his approval, issued the declaration known by its Latin title, Fiducia Supplicans (Supplicating Trust). This decision has been clarified by the Vatican, emphasising that while it allows blessings for all, including same-sex couples, it does not equate to approval of homosexual acts, nor does it resemble the sacrament of marriage reserved for heterosexual couples.

However, this clarification has not entirely swayed the opinion of bishops in Africa, where cultural contexts and legal restrictions on same-sex activities pose significant challenges. Some African bishops released a letter last week expressing that the declaration had caused “unrest in the minds of many” and citing the inability to apply it in their cultural context. In France, some bishops have instructed priests to bless gay individuals but not couples.

Pope Francis reiterated the Church’s stance that while gay sex is considered sinful and disordered, the Church should not immediately condemn individuals with same-sex attractions. Instead, he suggested a path of dialogue and guidance, stating, “The Lord blesses everyone…We (the Church) must take them by the hand and lead them along that path.”

Since his election in 2013, Pope Francis has been working towards making the Church more inclusive for LGBTQ+ people, striving for a balance between welcoming individuals and upholding the Church’s traditional moral teachings.

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