The Vatican grants tentative consent to the possibility of blessing same-sex couples

Pope Francis has given his approval to a ruling that marks a significant advancement for the Catholic church. The ruling allows priests to bless unmarried and same-sex couples, which represents a major change in the church’s stance.

The Vatican’s doctrinal office published a report on Monday, stating that such blessings would be permitted with certain conditions. The report emphasized that the blessings should not resemble a marriage ceremony and should not be seen as approval of the union.

While there are limitations, this announcement is a significant step forward for the Vatican. In 2021, the Catholic church stated that same-sex couples could not be blessed as it goes against God’s teachings.

According to a Vatican observer, this move is likely the most concrete change in the church’s position on gay couples in its 2,000-year history.

The report advises priests to assess each case individually and not to hinder the church’s support for people seeking God’s help through a simple blessing. However, it is emphasized that the blessing should avoid any confusion or scandal and should not be associated with civil unions or weddings.

Instead, the report suggests other contexts where the blessing may be given, such as visits to shrines, meetings with priests, group prayers, or during pilgrimages.

This report follows a letter from Pope Francis in October, which stated that such blessings could be performed in specific circumstances as long as they were not mistaken for the sacrament of marriage.

Christopher White, a Vatican reporter, commented that while the Vatican’s declaration has limited scope, it signifies a significant development in the church’s teachings and practices on gay couples.

Although this ruling has its caveats, such as not allowing liturgical ceremonies and not including it in the official blessings book of the church, it may not be seen as sufficient by those advocating for full inclusion of gay couples in church life.

Father James Martin, an American Jesuit priest who supports the LGBTQ+ community, called the document “a major step forward” and expressed his delight in being able to bless same-sex unions.

Since becoming pope in 2013, Francis has adopted a more inclusive tone towards the LGBTQ+ community, as seen in his famous “Who am I to judge?” statement regarding gay priests.

In a 2020 documentary, Francis publicly endorsed granting rights to gay people within same-sex unions, but this endorsement pertains to civil matters rather than within the Catholic church.

Throughout his papacy, Francis has shown openness to progression in various areas, such as allowing divorced and remarried Catholics to receive communion, which has been criticized by conservative Catholics.

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