The decision by Pope Francis to allow blessings for gay couples holds importance, yet it is not groundbreaking.

Pope Francis reiterated the unchanged doctrine of the Catholic church regarding marriage, leaving a significant amount of work for LGBT+ activists to do.
In 2013, Pope Francis disrupted the established norms of the Vatican and the global Roman Catholic church when he uttered five words that offered hope to LGBT+ Christians worldwide.
During his return flight from Brazil to Rome, while on the papal plane, he responded to a reporter’s question about homosexuality by saying, “Who am I to judge?”
At that time, Francis had only been Pope for four months, but he had already indicated a new approach. Rejecting the lavishness, ceremony, and deference traditionally associated with popes, he vowed to lead a “church of the poor for the poor” that advocated for marginalized and oppressed individuals.
Some individuals mistakenly believed or hoped that Francis would overturn centuries-old teachings. They anticipated the ordination of women as Catholic priests, the acceptance of abortion, and the allowance of same-sex marriages in the church.
None of these scenarios were ever in the works. However, more than a decade after uttering the encouraging words, “Who am I to judge?”, Francis has now authorized a significant step towards allowing priests to bless same-sex couples.
According to a groundbreaking ruling from the Vatican’s doctrinal office, priests “should not impede or prevent the church from offering support to individuals seeking God’s help through a simple blessing” but these blessings should not create the impression of a marriage. The Catholic doctrine of marriage, which defines it as an indissoluble union between a man and a woman, remains unchanged, and the blessing does not indicate approval of the union.
Some activists may view the conditions attached to this development as disappointing, while others may interpret it as a strong message of inclusivity and pastoral care for LGBT+ Christians, and a signal to conservatives within the church that a hardline stance on LGBT+ issues is no longer acceptable.
Another indication of change occurred last month when the Vatican stated that transgender individuals could be baptized and serve as godparents in the Catholic church under certain circumstances. This announcement, accompanied by its own set of conditions, was celebrated as a significant step towards trans inclusion.
Pope Francis, who just turned 87 and has faced health challenges throughout the year, including hospitalizations, appears to be acting swiftly to secure his legacy against the efforts of those seeking to undermine his reforms and vision.
A few weeks ago, he revoked the stipend and rent-free Vatican apartment of retired cardinal Raymond Burke, one of his most vocal opponents. Burke, an American, has openly criticized Francis and his reforms, aligning with other conservatives in raising “dubia” or formal questions, seeking clarification on issues such as divorced and remarried Catholics and same-sex unions.
Before that, Francis removed another opponent, Joseph Strickland, as the bishop of Tyler, Texas, following a Vatican investigation into the governance of his diocese.
Remaining traditionalists and conservatives within the church hierarchy might now be wondering who or what will be the next target of Pope Francis’ actions.

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