Pope Francis open to blessing same-sex unions, reversing church’s stance

Pope Francis wears a white jacket, white robes and cap as he waves to people gathered in a public audience at the Vatican in Rome

Pope Francis has said for the first time that same-sex couples could have their unions blessed, marking a huge turning point for LGBTQ+ Catholics.

The pontiff, who has consistently used his title and platform to encourage church leaders to accept LGBTQ+ parishioners and spread a message of acceptance, reminded followers that same-sex relationships are sacred and deserving of god’s blessing.

Pope Francis had been responding to a panel of five conservative cardinals who had challenged him on his stance on homosexuality in a letter called a “dubia”, which is an official demand for a direct yes or no answer regarding the running of the Catholic Church.

Pope Francis
The Pope has said the Catholic church is open to blessing same-sex unions. (Vatican Media via Vatican Pool/Getty Images)

The five cardinals first wrote to Pope Francis in July to ask him about his intentions to bless same-sex unions. When they were unsatisfied with the pontiff’s response, they reworded the “dubia” letter, explaining the “gravity of the matter.”

The pope’s response, published on 25 September, was clear: the church still recognises marriage as a union between a man and a woman, but same-sex unions should have the opportunity to be blessed.

“When you ask for a blessing, you are expressing a request for help from God, a prayer to be able to live better, a trust in a father who can help us live better,” he wrote.

The letter added that the clergy must use “pastoral prudence” and “pastoral charity” to guide their responses to same-sex couples who request a blessing.

Pope Francis has gone back on earlier claims he made that the Church could “not bless sin”. (Getty)

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This decision contradicts an earlier statement from Pope Francis in March, in which he said that same-sex unions couldn’t be blessed because the Church could “not bless sin.”

The pontiff’s change of heart follows a decision made by the German Church this year, which allowed for same-sex unions to be blessed by a number of Catholic priests in the city of Cologne.

Whatever the reason is for Pope Francis’ turnaround on same-sex unions, LGBTQ+ Catholics and advocate groups are thrilled with the decision.

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GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis noted that Pope Francis’ decision was “both unprecedented and compassionate.”

She stated: “The Pope has consistently elevated the dignity of LGBTQ people. He has now extended his call for affirmation to our relationships by noting they, too, are sacred and deserving of respect.

“The Holy Father repeatedly reminds Catholics and Church leadership to accept rather than exclude and condemn.

“Pope Francis’ leadership recognizes the lived reality that LGBTQ people exist, that we form partnerships and families, and that we need the support of our communities, including our churches.

“This is not full marriage recognition, but it will make a significant difference in the lives of LGBTQ families and create a Catholic Church open to all, regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity.” 

Pope Francis wears a white garments as he holds up a dark coloured cross
Pope Francis has made statements in the past that supported LGBTQ+ people. (Getty)

Similarly, the New Ways Ministry, an organisation that advocates for LGBTQ+ Catholics, commented: “The allowance for pastoral ministers to bless same-gender couples implies that the church does indeed recognise that holy love can exist between same-gender couples, and the love of these couples mirrors the love of God.

“Those recognitions, while not completely what LGBTQ+ Catholics would want, are an enormous advance towards fuller and more comprehensive equality.

“This statement is one big straw towards breaking the camel’s back of the marginalized treatment LGBTQ+ people experience in the Church.”

This is far from the first time that Pope Francis has advocated for LGBTQ+ Catholics.

In January, the pontiff reminded followers that “homosexuality is not a crime” and that countries who criminalise same-sex relationships are “unjust” in doing so.

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A year earlier, the Pope urged parents to support their LGBTQ+ children and not to “hide in an attitude of condemnation.”

According to a 2022 study by UCLA’s Williams Institute, 47 per cent of LGBTQ+ people in the US consider themselves religious, and one in seven highly-religious LGBTQ+ adults are married to a same-sex partner.

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