Addressing the controversy surrounding the Vatican’s decision to allow blessings for same-sex couples, Pope Francis said the critics of the guidance, except for Africans, belong to “small ideological groups.”
The pontiff claimed that even in Africa, the resistance is more cultural, as homosexuality is generally not tolerated, Reuters quoted him as saying in an interview with the Italian newspaper La Stampa.
Francis was referring to the December 2023 document “Fiducia Supplicans” issued by the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, which has sparked widespread debate within the Catholic Church. The guidance stated that priests may bless same-sex couples that approach them for blessings but distinguishes between liturgical blessings and pastoral blessings, which do not give approval to same-sex relationships.
“Those who protest vehemently belong to small ideological groups,” Francis was quoted as saying. “A special case are Africans: for them homosexuality is something ‘bad’ from a cultural point of view, they don’t tolerate it.”
“But in general, I trust that gradually everyone will be reassured by the spirit of the ‘Fiducia Supplicans’ declaration by the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith: it aims to include, not divide,” the pope said.
He acknowledged the strong resistance from African bishops as there are harsh legal penalties for same-sex relationships in some African countries. The pope stressed the importance of context and sensitivity when blessing same-sex couples.
Pope Francis remains undeterred despite opposition from some theological conservatives. He advised focusing on moving forward rather than dwelling on talks of schism, which he believes are led by small groups.
“We must leave them to it and move on … and look forward,” he said.
In his remarks at the plenary session of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith last Friday, Pope Francis clarified that the Church’s teachings on homosexual practices and same-sex relationships remain unchanged. The “Fiducia Supplicans” declaration, while allowing blessings for same-sex couples, does not equate these blessings with marriage, nor does it validate relationships deemed irregular by the Church.
The Pope explained that these blessings are meant to demonstrate the Church’s closeness to those in various situations without demanding moral perfection. He emphasized that the blessings are for the individuals, not the union, and should consider the local context and sensitivities.
Cardinal Victor Manuel Fernandez, author of the declaration, released a statement earlier this month to clarify the document’s intent. He stated that the blessings, lasting no more than 15 seconds, are a pastoral response and do not justify anything morally unacceptable. The declaration has faced opposition from some bishops, like the leader of the Archdiocese of Saint Mary in Astana, Kazakhstan, who has prohibited these blessings in his diocese.
The Vatican’s guidance is part of a series of responses to questions from bishops worldwide. It includes clarifications on issues like the eligibility of single mothers who have confessed their sins to receive the eucharist.
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