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Cardinal says debate about blessings is part of church life

The document in question, 'Fiducia Supplicans,' stated Catholic priests could bless a same-sex or other unmarried couples
Vatican's Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin speaks during the High-Level Segment for Heads of State and Government session at the United Nations climate summit in Dubai on Dec. 2, 2023.

Vatican's Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin speaks during the High-Level Segment for Heads of State and Government session at the United Nations climate summit in Dubai on Dec. 2, 2023. (Photo: AFP)

Published: January 13, 2024 05:18 AM GMT
Updated: January 13, 2024 05:21 AM GMT

Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, said the debate surrounding the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith's declaration on the possibility of blessing gay couples shows that deeper reflection is still needed.

At the same time, he said, the reaction is a normal and healthy part of the Catholic Church learning how to take Gospel values and apply them to new situations.

Speaking to reporters who were attending his speech on the Holy See and peacemaking Jan. 12 at Rome's Academy of the Lincei, the cardinal was asked if the turmoil surrounding the document on blessings was good or bad.

"It is always good," the cardinal replied, according to Vatican News. "The important thing is that we always proceed according to what is called 'progress in continuity.'"

"In the church there has always been change," he said. "The church of today is not the church of 2,000 years ago. The church is open to the signs of the times; it is attentive to needs that arise, but it also must be faithful to the Gospel, it must be faithful to tradition, faithful to its heritage."

"But if this upheaval helps us walk according to the Gospel in responding, then it is welcome," he said.

Cardinal Parolin also was asked about the statement of the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar, or SECAM, released Jan. 11 that said that while the bishops of Africa affirm their fidelity to the pope, they "generally prefer" not to offer blessings to same-sex couples.

The statement, signed by Congolese Cardinal Fridolin Ambongo of Kinshasa, president of SECAM, also said the message was issued "with the agreement" of Pope Francis and Cardinal Victor Manuel Fernández, prefect of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith.

"This document has provoked very strong reactions from some episcopates," Cardinal Parolin said. "It means that a very, very delicate, very sensitive point has been touched upon that will need serious follow-up."

The document in question, "Fiducia Supplicans" ("Supplicating Trust") -- subtitled "On the pastoral meaning of blessings" -- stated that Catholic priests could bless a same-sex or other unmarried couple. However, it cannot be a formal liturgical blessing, nor give the impression that the church is blessing the union as if it were a marriage.

The document, and a subsequent clarification by Cardinal Fernández, insisted that the declaration did not change Catholic doctrine on marriage and did not signal approval for same-sex unions.

But the request for a blessing can express and nurture "openness to the transcendence, mercy and closeness to God in a thousand concrete circumstances of life, which is no small thing in the world in which we live. It is a seed of the Holy Spirit that must be nurtured, not hindered," the doctrinal dicastery said in the declaration published Dec. 18.

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