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Pope Francis Was Referring To Blessing Individuals Within Same-Sex Union Not the Union Itself, Says Father Anoliefo

“For starters, the church still holds emphatically that homosexual tendencies are intrinsically disordered orientation.”

In a Sunday interview on ARISE News, THISDAYLIVE Anchor Dr Reuben Abati questioned the approval of priests to bless same-sex unions by the Pope, asking if the Catholic Church has approved gay unions. Responding to the question was the Executive Director of the Justice and Peace Centre in the Catholic Archdiocese of Lagos, Raymond Anoliefo, who clarified that the Catholic Church has not approved gay unions. 

He explained saying; “To answer directly; no, the Catholic Church has not approved gay unions and has not sanctioned the blessings of same-sex union. What the church has done, by that document Fiducia supplicans, is allowing and opening up the space for persons in irregular unions to come into the embrace of God and into the embrace of the church. So, the blessing is for the couple and the individual, not the union.”

Anoliefo pointed out that in 2021, certain Cardinals raised questions, known as “dubia,” regarding same-sex unions. In response, Pope Francis provided clear answers, reaffirming the church’s position on the matter. 

He said; “It is important that I state that this issue would not have polarized the Christian fold, especially the Catholic faith, if we had a clearer understanding of the background that led to this. 

“Some time ago, there were discussions around this same issue, especially in 2021, and some Cardinals issued what is called “dubia,” which is a series of questions and doctrines on disciplines of the church. To these questions, the Holy Father Pope Francis gave very clear answers on the church’s position on same-sex union.

“For starters, the church still holds emphatically that homosexual tendencies are intrinsically disordered orientation. Marriage, according to the church, is between a man and a woman for life —for love, happiness, and peace. It is indissoluble and irrevocable.”

He highlighted that, historically, blessings were confined to liturgical celebrations, involving specific rituals outlined in the Book of Blessings.

However, he pointed out that a new perspective, endorsed by Pope Francis, emphasizes a distinction between formal liturgical blessings and informal or spontaneous blessings He said; “Prior to this time, blessings had been held strictly in the areas of liturgical celebration. Now, blessings encompass God’s favour, protection, mercy, and presence on items, articles, people, or structures. 

“Institutes can receive blessings in various ways. What existed before were discussions around liturgical blessings, formal blessings with liturgical rites. There is a Book of Blessings, and specific blessings require the right vestments, rituals, programs, activities, words, forms, and the necessary matter must be present.

“For example, in marriage, there are liturgical rites for the celebration of marriage in the Catholic Church, which is a formal kind of blessing. However, the church, through the Pope, emphasizes a new distinction. 

“While liturgical blessings exist, there’s also what we call informal blessings or spontaneous blessings. For instance, as a priest, someone can approach me in front of the church office or come to the office and say, “Oh Father, bless me; I’m traveling,” or “Bless me; I’m writing an exam.” In these cases, a spontaneous blessing is given, and it doesn’t require any specific rules or rituals.”

Pope Francis, he clarified, stressed the importance of extending God’s mercy even to those in same-sex union, emphasizing the biblical foundation for such compassion. Anoliefo clarified that the Pope’s statement specifically addressed the blessing of individuals, not the relationships or unions themselves. He said; “The Holy Father is saying that, with persons in irregular unions—knowing that these unions are already disordered and not in conformity with the mind of the church (and by extension, with the mind of God)—we could plainly put them, I don’t want to sound holier-than-thou, as sinful behaviours. 

“Now, when individuals who are even in these sinful behaviours or patterns approach the priest, they are also deserving of the mercy of God, and it is biblical. What Pope Francis said was the blessing of the couples, not the relationship. Blessing of the individual, not the union.”

Eloho Otugo

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