By Most Rev. Joseph Osei-Bonsu

Bishop of Konongo-Mampon


There is a post on the social media with the picture of Pope Francis in which he is said to have formally given Roman Catholic priests the permission to bless same-sex couples.  This has caused a lot of consternation among many people, some of whom have contacted me personally for my view on the matter.  One person said, “Your Lordship, my family is confused about the blessing of same-sex marriages by the priest in the church”.  While the Pope is saying that same-sex couples can be blessed, he is not saying that same-sex unions can be blessed by Catholic priests!  It is a malicious misrepresentation of the contents of a new document released in Rome today.

The Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith in the Vatican today, 18 December 2023, issued a Declaration, with the Pope’s approval, called “Fiducia supplicans” (“On the Pastoral Meaning of Blessings”). This Dicastery is the department in the Vatican that deals with doctrinal matters.  The Declaration begins by saying that “this Declaration remains firm on the traditional doctrine of the Church about marriage, not allowing any type of liturgical rite or blessing similar to a liturgical rite that can create confusion”.  The Declaration deals with the possibility “of blessing couples in irregular situations and same-sex couples without officially validating their status or changing in any way the Church’s perennial teaching on marriage”.  Therefore, the Church does not have the power to impart a liturgical blessing on irregular or same-sex couples. It is reiterated that according to the “perennial Catholic doctrine”, only sexual relations between a man and a woman in the context of marriage are considered lawful.  Thus, in imparting blessings on people outside the context of marriage, the blessing must be a simple one and must avoid any elements that remotely resemble a marriage rite.

Bishop Osei Bonsu

The Declaration notes that there are “several occasions when people spontaneously ask for a blessing, whether on pilgrimages, at shrines, or even on the street when they meet a priest and these blessings “are meant for everyone; no one is to be excluded from them” (par. 28).  The Declaration also notes that in “a brief prayer preceding this spontaneous blessing, the ordained minister could ask that the individuals have peace, health, a spirit of patience, dialogue, and mutual assistance—but also God’s light and strength to be able to fulfill his will completely” (par. 38).

Also clarified is that to avoid “any form of confusion or scandal”, when a couple in an irregular situation or same-sex couples ask for a blessing, it “should never be imparted in concurrence with the ceremonies of a civil union, and not even in connection with them. Nor can it be performed with any clothing, gestures, or words that are proper to a wedding” (par. 39). This kind of blessing “may instead find its place in other contexts, such as a visit to a shrine, a meeting with a priest, a prayer recited in a group, or during a pilgrimage” (par. 40).

In conclusion, the fourth chapter (paragraphs 42-45) recalls that “even when a person’s relationship with God is clouded by sin, he can always ask for a blessing, stretching out his hand to God” and desiring a blessing “can be the possible good in some situations” (par. 43).

By: Most Rev. Joseph Osei-Bonsu

Bishop of Konongo-Mampon

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