Pope Francis, in response to a group of cardinals seeking clarity on the issue, suggested that the Catholic Church could be open to blessing same-sex couples.
The Pope emphasised that any request for a blessing should be approached with “pastoral charity” and that the Church should not simply deny, reject, or exclude individuals. He stated, “We cannot be judges who only deny, reject and exclude.”
However, Pope Francis also reiterated the Church’s position that same-sex relationships are considered “objectively sinful,” and the Church would not recognise same-sex marriage. While he appeared to soften the tone on blessings, he did not indicate precisely what would be blessed: the unions or the individuals seeking the blessing.
The Pope highlighted that when a blessing is requested, it is a plea to God for help and an aspiration to live better, which should not be denied. He suggested that such requests for blessings should be considered on a case-by-case basis and emphasised the importance of pastoral prudence.
Pope Francis maintained the Church’s view of marriage as an “exclusive, stable, and indissoluble union between a man and a woman” and stressed the avoidance of any rites or sacramentals that could contradict this belief.
While this change in tone is significant, it’s important to note that Pope Francis approved a Vatican decree in the spring of 2021 forbidding priests from blessing same-sex unions, emphasising their sinful nature. The recent comments suggest a more nuanced approach, with an emphasis on pastoral consideration and kindness.
Throughout his papacy, Pope Francis has taken steps to soften the Church’s language on issues such as sexuality. These moves have sparked controversy and opposition from more conservative factions within the Church who adhere to traditional teachings.
In contrast, the Church of England took a step in February to allow prayers of blessing for same-sex couples, allowing them to seek services, including prayers of dedication, thanksgiving, and God’s blessing, after a legal marriage ceremony.