POPE Francis has authorized priests to bless same-sex couples but clarified that these informal blessings would not be the same as sacramental marriages.

The issuance of the declaration “Fiducia Supplicans (Supplicating Trust)” on Monday, Dec. 18, marks a significant step for the Vatican in its outreach to the LGBTQ community. It also covers couples in other “irregular” situations, such as cohabiting couples and those who had divorced and remarried.

“The Church is […] the sacrament of God’s infinite love,” said the document signed by Cardinal Victor Manuel Fernandez, prefect of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, and Msgr. Armando Matteo, secretary for the doctrinal section. “Therefore, even when a person’s relationship with God is clouded by sin, he can always ask for a blessing, stretching out his hand to God, as Peter did in the storm when he cried out to Jesus, ‘Lord, save me!’”

The declaration, which was approved by Pope Francis in an audience, stressed that blessing the faithful, including same-sex couples, is a pastoral gesture done without any discrimination.

“[T]he grace of God works in the lives of those who do not claim to be righteous but who acknowledge themselves humbly as sinners, like everyone else,” the declaration stated. “This grace can orient everything according to the mysterious and unpredictable designs of God.” 

“Therefore, with its untiring wisdom and motherly care, the Church welcomes all who approach God with humble hearts, accompanying them with those spiritual aids that enable everyone to understand and realize God’s will fully in their existence,” it added.

It clarified, however, that the blessing should not be confused with same-sex marriage, which the Church still opposes.

“Within the horizon outlined appears the possibility of blessings for couples in irregular situations and for couples of the same sex, the form of which should not be fixed ritually by ecclesial authorities to avoid producing confusion with the blessing proper to the Sacrament of Marriage,” he said.

The declaration advised prelates and clerics to avoid “confusion and scandal” by prohibiting blessing same-sex couples during civil union ceremonies and wearing garments used at weddings.  

Pope Francis has expressed openness to reaching out to the LGBTQ community, who, according to the 2023 synod document “Instrumentum Laboris,” have felt “hurt” and “unwelcomed by the Church.

During the three-week Synod on Synodality in October, more than 400 delegates were asked what concrete steps should be taken to welcome the faithful who have felt excluded because of their sexuality.

For Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas, the declaration has produced a “blessing of mercy.”

“When a Catholic priest prays a blessing of mercy on a couple in an irregular situation,” he wrote in an episcopal guidance published on Tuesday, Dec. 19, “he is asking God to have pity on both of them and to give them the grace of conversion so that they can regularize their relationships.”

In 2015, Villegas, then the president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, underscored the role of the Church in proclaiming the “good and saving news of marriage.”

“The Catholic Church is called to preach the power of grace through prayer and Holy Communion, and the mercy of Jesus Christ through the sacrament of penance,” he wrote in a pastoral response titled “The Dignity and Vocation of Homosexual Persons.” 

“It is Jesus Christ, and he alone, who can heal every broken human heart that yearns for unconditional love and authentic friendship.”

Jesuit priest Fr. James Martin, who has long advocated for gay and lesbian Catholics, said the declaration was a “huge step” and a major reversal from the Vatican’s previous pronouncement that “God cannot bless sin.”

“The new declaration opens the door to non-liturgical blessings for same-sex couples, something that had been previously off limits for all bishops, priests and deacons,” Martin told CNN. S.M.S. Balagan 


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