The Catholic Bishop of Konongo-Mampong, Most Rev. Joseph Osei-Bonsu, has described as “malicious misrepresentation” media reports that Pope Francis has formally granted Catholic priests the permission to bless the union of same-sex couples.

Some international media organisations reported on  Monday that there has been a radical change in Vatican policy insisting that people seeking God’s love and mercy should not be subject to ‘an exhaustive moral analysis’ to receive it.

Even though the reports pointed out that the shift in policy does not change the church’s position on marriage, they created the impression and confused the blessing with the sacrament of marriage.

Responding to the issue, Bishop Osei-Bonsu said the story has caused a lot of consternation among many people, some of whom contacted him personally for his view on the matter.

“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,” he stated.

“The Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith in the Vatican today, December 18, 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 Catholic Bishop explained.

He quoted the Declaration as 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.”

According to him, 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.

Bishop Osei-Bonsu stated that the document 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,” he pointed out.

He said the Declaration noted 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.”

“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,” he quoted the document as saying.

He said the Declaration also noted that “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,” he pinned.

“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,” he said.

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