African Catholic priests say they will not bless same-sex couples because the unions are ‘contrary to the will of God’
African Catholic priests, and those from Madagascar, rebuked Pope Francis’ approval of same-sex couples being blessed by the Catholic Church on Thursday, saying they refuse to follow the pontiff’s declaration because such unions are "contrary to the will of God."
Congolese Cardinal Fridolin Ambongo signed the statement on behalf of the symposium of African national bishops conferences, taking a nearly continental-sized stance against Francis’ declaration made on Dec. 18, which allowed priests to offer blessings to same-sex couples.
The change in the Vatican policy was released in mid-December and said, “people seeking God’s love and mercy shouldn’t be subject to ‘an exhaustive moral analysis’ to receive it.”
Francis sent the letter to two conservative cardinals in October, suggesting such blessings could be offered under some circumstances if those receiving the blessing did not confuse the ritual with the sacrament of marriage.
The declarations sent shockwaves through the Catholic Church, expanding a gap between Francis’ progressive leadership and the conservative church in much of the world, including Africa, where the number of Catholic Church members is growing faster than anywhere else in the world, the Associated Press reported.
While the Vatican restated that marriage is a lifelong union between a man and a woman, the declaration allowed priests to offer their blessings to same-sex couples seeking God’s grace in their lives as long as the blessings are not confused with the rites and sacrament of marriage.
Ambongo said in his statement that it was not appropriate for African priests to offer same-sex couples blessings because of the confusion and scandal it could create.
Ambongo also asserted that LGBTQ+ unions are "seen as contradictory to cultural norms and intrinsically corrupt," according to biblical teachings condemning homosexuality as an abomination.
"Within the church family of God in Africa, this declaration has caused a shockwave, it has sown misconceptions and unrest in the minds of many lay faithful, consecrated persons and even pastors, and has aroused strong reactions," Ambongo wrote.
He stressed that the bishops in Africa are in communion with the pontiff, but noted the blessings could not be given because “in our context, this would cause confusion and would be in direct contradiction to the cultural ethos of African communities.”
The president of the east African nation Burundi, Evariste Ndayishimiye, said a few weeks ago that same-sex couples in Burundi should "be taken to a stadium to be pelted with stones, once discovered." Then on Dec. 29, he spoke on a radio broadcast and asked those who practice homosexuality and live abroad to “not return home.”
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