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Pope Francis Authorizes Blessings for Same-Sex Couples, Signaling Shift in Church Stance

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In a groundbreaking move, Pope Francis has formally granted permission for Roman Catholic priests to bless same-sex couples, marking a significant departure from the church’s previous stance on LGBTQ+ issues. The announcement comes as a continuation of the Pope’s initial openness to such blessings in October, challenging a 2021 Vatican doctrine office ruling that had prohibited any blessings for same-sex couples, stating that God “cannot bless sin.”

The Vatican document, approved by Pope Francis, outlines that these blessings can be performed as long as they are not part of regular Church rituals or liturgies and are not conducted simultaneously with a civil union. The shift is attributed to the leadership of Cardinal Victor Manuel Fernandez, an ally of the Pope, who assumed control of the doctrine department in July 2023 and adopted a more inclusive perspective.

The declaration emphasizes a departure from requiring an exhaustive moral analysis before conferring blessings, asserting that the grace of God extends to those who humbly acknowledge themselves as sinners. While it opens the door to non-liturgical blessings for same-sex couples, the decision ultimately rests on the “prudent and fatherly discernment of ordained ministers.”

Father James Martin, a Jesuit priest known for his ministry to gay Catholics, described the ruling as a “huge step forward in the church’s ministry to same-sex couples,” emphasizing the contrast with the Vatican’s previous stance in 2021. Pope Francis has consistently sought to shift the church’s approach to LGBTQ+ Catholics since 2013 when he declared, “Who am I to judge?” He has shown support for civil recognition of same-sex couples, distancing the Vatican from past harsh language on homosexuality.

The new ruling underscores the Pope’s commitment to a more inclusive and compassionate church, acknowledging the complexity of relationships while maintaining the Church’s perennial teaching on marriage. However, it is anticipated that this progressive move may encounter resistance from a vocal minority within the church opposing Francis’ approach to LGBTQ+ issues.

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