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Pope Francis approves blessings for same-sex couples in change in Vatican policy

Blessings can only be offered under certain circumstances, new document outlines

Maryam Zakir-Hussain
Monday 18 December 2023 19:17 GMT
Pope Francis has approved the blessing of same-sex couples by priests
Pope Francis has approved the blessing of same-sex couples by priests (AFP/Getty)

Pope Francis has approved the blessing of same-sex couples by priests, the Vatican announced on Monday – but the Church still states that marriage is between a man and a woman.

The announcement on Vatican News marked a significant change in the position of the Catholic Church as it seeks to welcome more people into its teaching and practice.

However, the document outlining the radical policy change stressed that the ritual should not be confused with the sacrament of marriage, and it included a number of caveats.

The Vatican has long opposed gay marriage, with homosexuality considered “intrinsically disordered”, but Francis has shown support for same-sex civil unions on several occasions.

In 2021, the Vatican said the Church did not have the power to bless same-sex unions because God cannot “bless sin”. However, earlier this year, in a letter, the Pope said: “We cannot be judges who only deny, push back, exclude.”

The new rule says requests for such blessings should not be denied full stop, though it does clarify that blessings for same-sex couples cannot be “performed with any clothing, gestures, or words that are proper to a wedding”.

It also reaffirms that marriage is a lifelong sacrament between a man and a woman.

Pope Francis approves blessings for same-sex couples in radical change in Vatican policy (AFP/Getty)

It offers an extensive definition of the term “blessing” and states people seeking a transcendent relationship with God and looking for his love and mercy should not be subject to “an exhaustive moral analysis” as a precondition for receiving it.

“Ultimately, a blessing offers people a means to increase their trust in God,” the document said.

“The request for a blessing, thus, expresses and nurtures openness to the transcendence, mercy, and closeness to God in a thousand concrete circumstances of life, which is no small thing in the world in which we live.”

When the letter was published, the New Ways Ministry, which advocates for LGBT+ Catholics, said it “significantly advances” efforts to make these groups welcome in the church and represented “one big straw towards breaking the camel’s back” in their marginalisation.

Father James Martin, an American Jesuit priest who often stands for the LGBT+ community, said the move was “a major step forward”.

Writing on X/Twitter, he said: “Along with many priests, I will now be delighted to bless my friends in same-sex unions.”

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