Top Vatican official urges dialogue with German bishops on same-sex blessings

German same-sex blessings

The German bishops can expect a discussion with the Vatican over their vote in favour to bless same-sex unions.

The move, made by the influential and wealthy German Church, does not align with official Catholic doctrine, which forbids such blessings.

“A local, particular church cannot make a decision like that which involves the discipline of the Universal Church,” Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican’s Secretary of State said on Monday.

“There must certainly be a discussion with Rome and the rest of the Churches in the world … to clarify what are the decisions to make,” Parolin said.

In Germany, several congregations and pastors regularly offer blessings to same-sex couples, but the Catholic Church prohibits such blessings, a stance reaffirmed by the Vatican in 2021.

The Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith issued a statement against such blessings on grounds that God “cannot bless sin” and that it would be “illicit” for a priest to lend any legitimacy to same-sex unions.

The German multi-year consultation, the “Synodal Path” reform process, was launched in 2019 and aimed at giving lay people a stronger voice following the country’s clerical sexual abuse crisis.

Despite the Vatican’s position, 176 participants in the concluding Synodal Path meeting voted in favour of same-sex blessings, with 14 voting against and 12 abstaining.

Speaking to journalists, Parolin resisted the notion that the German vote was an act of rebellion, saying, “In the Church, there have always been tensions and differing positions.”

However, he reiterated the Vatican’s position on same-sex couples, saying “the position of Rome is that” referring to the 2021 Vatican statement.

Parolin also noted that the German bishops’ vote must be inserted into Pope Francis’s broader Synod of Bishops on Synodality, which will conclude in 2024.

Same-sex blessings delayed until 2026

The Vatican has been in discussions with German bishops regarding the Synodal Way for several years,.

Last summer, Pope Francis penned a letter to the German Church cautioning against stoking division over issues such as priestly celibacy, women’s priestly ordination and same-sex blessings.

In November, the Vatican attempted to shut down the process altogether during a meeting with several department heads as part of the German bishops’ ad limina visit to Rome.

The process went forward regardless.

Cardinal Parolin called it a good sign that the German Church opted to hold off on offering blessings to same-sex couples until 2026.

However, he concluded, “This decision should fit inside the synodal path of the universal church. There it will be decided what developments there will be”.


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