Pope approves blessings for same-sex couples 'if it doesn't resemble marriage'

For the first time priests will be allowed to bless same-sex couples, as long as it does not resemble a marriage ceremony, as Neil Connery reports

Pope Francis has formally approved allowing priests to bless same-sex couples.

The radical change in the Vatican's stance is outlined in a new document, which says people seeking God’s love and mercy should not be subject to “an exhaustive moral analysis” to receive it.

The document from the Vatican’s doctrine office, released on Monday, elaborates on a letter The Pope sent to two conservative cardinals which was published in October.

In that preliminary response, Francis suggested such blessings could be offered under some circumstances if they did not confuse the ritual with the sacrament of marriage.

The new document also reiterates that marriage is a lifelong sacrament between a man and a woman.

It stresses the same-sex blessings must be non-liturgical - a less formal type of worship - and should not be happen at the same time as a civil union.

Pope Francis meets newly weds in with Pope Francis during the weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square. Credit: AP

The blessings also must not be given using set rituals or even with the clothing and gestures that usually would take place at a wedding.

But the document does say requests for such blessings for same-sex couples should not be denied.

It offers an extensive and broad definition of the term “blessing” in Scripture to insist that 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.”

He added: "It is a seed of the Holy Spirit that must be nurtured, not hindered.”

The Vatican believes marriage is an indissoluble union between man and woman - as a result, it has long opposed same-sex marriage.

In 2021, the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith said the church could not bless the unions of two men or two women because “God cannot bless sin.”

That document created an outcry, which even Pope Francis appeared to be blindsided by, despite him technically approving its publication.

Soon after it was published, he removed the official responsible for it and began the groundwork for its reversal.

Italian Arcigay gay rights association activists hold banners and flags during a demonstration in front of The Vatican in 2009. Credit: AP

In the new document, the Vatican said the church must shy away from “doctrinal or disciplinary schemes, especially when they lead to a narcissistic and authoritarian elitism".

It stressed people in “irregular” unions, whether gay or straight, are in a state of sin. But it said that should not deprive them of God’s love or mercy.

“Thus, when people ask for a blessing, an exhaustive moral analysis should not be placed as a precondition for conferring it,” the document said.

The Rev. James Martin, who advocates for greater welcome for LGBTQ+ Catholics, praised the new document as a “huge step forward” and a “dramatic shift” from the Vatican's 2021 policy.

The new document “recognises the deep desire in many Catholic same-sex couples for God’s presence and help in their committed relationships,” he said.

"Along with many Catholic priests, I will now be delighted to bless my friends in same-sex marriages.”

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