African Bishops Reject Pope Francis’ Approval of Same-Sex Blessings

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Africa’s bishops on Thursday rejected Pope Francis’ new guidance on the blessing of same-sex unions, saying in a letter they affirm their communion with Francis but believe LGBT relationships conflict with church teaching and Scripture.

Cardinal Fridolin Ambongo, president of the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM), signed the five-page letter representing Africa’s bishops. 

“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 letter said.

The language of Pope Francis’ December statement allows for the blessing of same-sex couples but calls such relationships “irregular” and restates the Vatican’s position that marriage is defined as the union of one man and one woman. The statement said “a blessing may be imparted” on “couples in irregular situations” and “couples of the same sex” as long as the blessing is not “imparted in concurrence with the ceremonies” of marriage nor “performed with any clothing, gestures, or words that are proper to a wedding.”

Cardinal Ambongo’s letter called Pope Francis’ guidance “too subtle for simple people to understand.” Francis’ guidance has “caused a shockwave” and “has sown misconceptions and unrest in the minds of many lay faithful, consecrated persons and even pastors and has aroused strong reactions,” the cardinal’s letter said.

“The African Bishops’ Conferences emphasize that people with a homosexual tendency must be treated with respect and dignity while reminding them that unions of persons of the same sex are contrary to the will of God and therefore cannot receive the blessing of the Church,” the letter said.

Catholic News Agency reported the letter is “the first instance of the Church in an entire continent rejecting same-sex blessings as proposed” by Pope Francis.

The cardinal’s letter quoted church teaching and Scripture. 

“The constant teaching of the Church describes homosexual acts as “intrinsically disordered’ … and contrary to the natural law,” Cardinal Ambongo wrote.

The cardinal’s letter concluded that Jesus wants people to walk away from their sins. 

“After showing such tenderness to the woman caught in adultery, [Jesus] said to her: ‘Go, and from now on, sin no more’ (Jn 8:11). As the salt of the earth and the light of the world (cf. Mt 5:13-14), the merciful mission of the Church is to go against the tide of the spirit of the world (ef. Rom 12:2) and to offer it the best, even if it is demanding.”

Photo Courtesy: ©Getty Images/Giulio Origlia/Stringer

Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chroniclethe Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.

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