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Vatican approves blessings for same-sex couples in landmark step forwards

Same-sex marriage remains unlegitimised by the Catholic Church, however

By Dale Fox

Wide shot of Pope Francis
Pope Francis (Image: Catholic Church England and Wales/Flickr Creative Commons)

The Vatican has approved a landmark ruling that will allow Roman Catholic priests to bless same-sex couples as long as they’re not part of regular church rituals. The ruling came in an official 8-page document issued by the Vatican’s doctrinal office on Monday, the AP reported.

The document states that priests can bless same-sex couples as long as the blessings are not part of official church liturgies. Notably, the Vatican emphasised that it does not intend to legitimise same-sex unions or marriages, which the Catholic Church still considers sinful. Instead, the blessings signify that God welcomes all people.

Blessings for same-sex couples may not be “performed with any clothing, gestures, or words that are proper to a wedding,” the document states, according to France 24 (via AFP).

More accepting gestures towards LGBTQ+ Catholics

The ruling follows years of gradually more accepting gestures towards LGBTQ+ Catholics under Pope Francis, who has tried to make the Church more welcoming of marginalised groups. In 2023, the Vatican ruled that transgender people can be baptised and serve as godparents. And in 2022, Francis told parents to never condemn their LGBTQ+ children.

However, Francis has wavered in his stance at times. Despite his famous 2013 comment asking “Who am I to judge gay people?“, he later said that gay men should not be priests and that gay bishops should leave the priesthood. The Vatican also once erased his comments telling parents to seek psychiatric help for gay children.

Additionally, while allowing blessings for same-sex couples, Francis remains opposed to blessing same-sex marriages themselves. The Catholic Church still officially teaches that homosexual acts are sinful.

Vatican officials have stressed that the ruling does not constitute an endorsement of same-sex marriage. They say it is meant as a pastoral outreach to Catholics who feel marginalised. But LGBTQ+ advocates may remain disappointed that official Catholic Church doctrines declaring homosexuality inherently sinful remain unchanged.