Crisis between the Vatican and African Churches over the blessing of homosexual couples

The document would, no one doubted, cause a stir

Crisis between the Vatican and African Churches over the blessing of homosexual couples

The document would, no one doubted, cause a stir. It was finally a wave that arrived from the African continent to fall on Rome in the days following the publication, on December 18, of a “doctrinal declaration” authorizing blessing (action consisting of invoking divine benevolence on one or several people) homosexual couples and “illegal couples”, particularly divorced and remarried people. This text from the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, an institution of the Roman Curia responsible for monitoring Catholic dogma, entitled Fiducia supplicans (“the suppliant trust”), was written by Cardinal Victor Manuel Fernandez, at the head of the organization, but signed and approved by the Pope.

If the lawyers of the LGBTQ cause, who had been waiting for this measure for a long time, rejoiced, particularly in Belgium and Germany, where the episcopate requested such progress, the representatives of the Catholic Church in Africa showed a almost generalized distrust. This was expressed on December 20 in a letter written by the Archbishop of Kinshasa, in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Cardinal Fridolin Ambongo, also president of the symposium of the episcopal conferences of Africa and Madagascar, which brings together all the high clergy of the continent.

“The ambiguity of this declaration [of December 18], which lends itself to numerous interpretations and manipulations, arouses much perplexity among the faithful,” writes the prelate. He asks the continent's episcopal conferences to give their opinion on the text signed by Pope Francis in order to "draft a single synodal declaration, valid for the entire Church of Africa." The aim being, once the consultation is completed, to be able to “issue a pastoral statement on the subject, which will serve as a general guideline for all local Churches [on the] continent”.

The issue of gay rights in Africa

The blessing approved by the pope does not mark an evolution of doctrine but opens the way to new practices on the part of priests. They are asked to be more welcoming to the faithful and to bless same-sex couples outside of any liturgical moment, provided that the blessing does not resemble a marriage.

This clarification was not enough to prevent hostility in several African countries. In Malawi, two thirds of the bishops signed a joint declaration refusing to practice blessings. The senior clergy of Cameroon also very quickly “formally prohibited” its priests from blessing homosexual couples.