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The Vatican has been forced to address the concerns of Catholic bishops in several countries, especially in Africa, regarding the blessing of same-sex couples.

In a five-page statement, the Vatican’s doctrinal office clarified the nature of these blessings, emphasising that they are neither heretical nor blasphemous. This move follows the approval of the Fiducia Supplicans declaration by Pope Francis last December, which led to varied responses from bishops worldwide.

The declaration, while seeking to be more inclusive towards LGBTQ+ individuals, has stirred confusion in some regions. To mitigate this, the Vatican explained that these blessings should not be interpreted as a validation of homosexual acts or an equivalent to the sacrament of marriage for same-sex couples. The statement from the doctrinal office, also known as the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, encouraged a comprehensive and peaceful reading of the declaration, reiterating its stance on marriage and sexuality.

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In countries where homosexuality is criminalised or subject to severe punishment, the Vatican urged pastoral prudence. It recognised that in these regions, public blessings could expose individuals to risks, including violence, imprisonment, or even death. This consideration is particularly relevant in nations like Burundi and Uganda, where homosexuality faces harsh legal penalties.

The Vatican’s latest statement also addressed the format of these blessings, suggesting they should be brief, lasting only about 10 to 15 seconds, and should not be part of Church rituals or resemble a wedding in any way. This guidance aims to respect local laws and circumstances while maintaining the Church’s doctrinal stance on same-sex relationships.

Pope Francis has been working towards making the Church more welcoming to LGBT people since his election in 2013, despite not altering its moral doctrines. The latest statement from the Vatican seeks to balance this welcoming approach with the doctrinal beliefs and varying cultural contexts of the global Catholic community.

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