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We generally prefer not to offer blessings to same-sex couples — African bishops counter Pope Francis

We generally prefer not to offer blessings to same-sex couples — African bishops counter Pope Francis
Pope Francis with the SACBC bishops during their last ad limina visit in 2014. (Photo: L’Osservatore Romano/CNS)

Catholic bishops across Africa have issued a collective response to the recent Vatican declaration, stating their preference not to offer blessings to same-sex couples.

The bishops, part of episcopal conferences in Africa, released a statement on January 11, expressing concerns that performing such blessings would expose them to scandals.

The response comes after the Vatican's declaration, “Fiducia Supplicans” (“Supplicating Trust”), on the pastoral meaning of blessings, which allows priests to give brief, informal, non-sacramental blessings to same-sex couples in specific circumstances without validating their status officially.

In their statement titled “No blessing for homosexual couples in the African churches,” the bishops emphasized their fidelity to the Pope and the gospel, stating, “We, the African bishops, do not consider it appropriate for Africa to bless homosexual unions or same-sex couples because, in our context, this would cause confusion and would be in direct contradiction to the cultural ethos of African communities.”

The message, signed by Congolese Cardinal Fridolin Ambongo Besungu, president of the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and (SECAM), addressed the shockwave caused by the Vatican declaration in Africa.

While acknowledging that the declaration does not alter church teaching on human sexuality and marriage, the bishops expressed concerns about the subtlety of its language, stating, “the language it uses remains too subtle for simple people to understand.”

The SECAM statement received the agreement of Pope Francis and Cardinal Víctor Manuel Fernández, prefect of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of Faith. The bishops affirmed their communion with the Pope and fidelity to the Word of God.

While acknowledging that the declaration offers the possibility of blessings for same-sex couples, they clarified, “We, the African bishops, generally prefer—not to offer blessings to same-sex couples.”

Cardinal Ambongo urged Christian communities not to be shaken and reminded them of Pope Francis' opposition to cultural colonization in Africa.

The statement emphasized the commitment of the bishops to provide pastoral assistance to all members, including those in irregular situations, while respecting the dignity of individuals with a homosexual tendency.

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