Pope Francis has defended his decision to allow priests to bless same-sex couples, stating that the criticism from African bishops was influenced by culture.
The Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM), an association of Catholic bishops on the continent, had opposed the pope’s decision to approve nonliturgical blessings for gay couples, describing such blessings as inappropriate.
However, in an interview with Italian newspaper La Stampa, Francis said critics of his declaration “belong to small ideological groups” except Africans, who he considered a separate case because they view homosexuality as something “bad” from a cultural point of view.
Last month, the pope endorsed a radical shift in the church’s stance on same-sex unions by authorizing blessings for gay couples. African Catholic bishops argued that the cultural context in Africa, deeply rooted in natural law regarding marriage and family, further complicates the acceptance of unions of persons of the same sex. They called for a reversal of the pope’s directive approving same-sex blessings, while barring priests at the archdiocese from accepting or performing such blessings.
Catholic bishops in central Asia also called for a reversal of the pope’s directive approving same-sex blessings. Kazakhstani bishops Tomash Peta and Athanasius Schneider jointly described blessings for same-sex unions as a contradiction to the age-long practice and doctrine of the Catholic Church. They asked Pope Francis to revoke the permission to bless couples in irregular situations and same-sex couples, so that the Catholic Church may shine clearly as the pillar and ground of the truth.
The Vatican’s guidelines have received strong support from bishops across Europe, including Catholic clergies in France, Austria, and Germany. French Archbishop Hervé Giraud, who heads the Archdiocese of Sens in central France, stated that he could bless a gay couple as he believed it was not an acceptance of a same-sex union.