In a notable move that highlights a divergence between the progressive stance of Pope Francis and the conservative sentiments within the Catholic community, the Roman Catholic Bishops of Africa and Madagascar, represented by Congolese Cardinal Fridolin Ambongo, have issued a resounding statement refusing to comply with the Pope’s recent declaration permitting priests to offer blessings to same-sex couples.
The statement, released on behalf of the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM), categorically declared their opposition to such unions, deeming them “contrary to the will of God.” This firm stance directly challenges Pope Francis’ December 18 approval of a declaration that allowed priests to offer blessings to same-sex couples, a move that had been welcomed by LGBTQ Catholics.
The Vatican’s declaration, while reiterating the traditional Church teaching that marriage is exclusively between a man and a woman, allowed priests to provide non-liturgical blessings to same-sex couples, emphasizing the distinction from wedding ceremonies.
However, the African Catholic bishops argue that this stance contradicts “the cultural ethos of African communities,” emphasizing the disparity between the Vatican’s directives and the prevailing cultural norms in Africa, where homosexuality remains illegal in many countries.
“The Church’s doctrine on Christian marriage and sexuality remains unchanged,” stated SECAM in a release from Accra, Ghana’s capital. “For this reason, we, the African Bishops, do not consider it appropriate for Africa to bless homosexual unions or same-sex couples,” the statement added.
This pushback underscores the existing gap between Pope Francis’ progressive and reform-oriented leadership and the conservative outlook within a significant segment of the Catholic community, especially in regions where cultural and legal perspectives on homosexuality differ from those in more liberal parts of the world. The refusal to adhere to the Pope’s directive on same-sex blessings reflects the ongoing complex dynamics within the global Catholic Church.