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Nigerian Catholic bishops defy Pope’s order, insist no blessings for same-sex unions

Nigerian Catholic bishops defy Pope’s order, insist no blessings for same-sex unions

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) has declared that the Church cannot bless same-sex unions and activities.

They stated that such actions would contradict God’s law. They said it was also against the teachings of the Church, the laws of Nigeria, and the cultural sensibilities of the Nigerian people.

In an unequivocal statement issued on Thursday, the Catholic Bishops reiterated the Church’s teaching on marriage. The Catholic clergy said marriage is an “exclusive, stable, and indissoluble union of a man and a woman”.

This clarification from the CBCN follows a recent reaffirmation by the Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria (CSN).

CSN said the Church’s teachings on the sacrament of marriage remain unchanged, despite the Vatican’s recent decision to allow blessings for same-sex couples.

An official from the secretariat said, “It’s crucial to reiterate that this does not change the Church’s teaching on the sacrament of marriage. The Church’s view on same-sex marriage remains unaltered.”

Catholic bishops

The Catholic bishops made their stand known in a statement by Lucius Iwejuru Ugorji, Archbishop of Owerri and President of CBCN, and Donatus Ogun, Bishop of Uromi and Secretary of CBCN.

It was issued in response to the Vatican Declaration, ‘Fiducia Supplicans’ (i.e. pleading with courage).

“The Declaration seeks to clarify the different forms of blessing that can be given to persons and objects in the Catholic Church. Including the possibility of blessing persons in irregular unions,” the CBCN stated.

The CBCN statement identifies irregular unions as including, but not limited to, divorced and remarried couples whose previous marriages had not been annulled. Also, those in same-sex unions, those in polygamous unions, and those in concubinage, among others.

Nevertheless, the Church maintains a clear stance that the blessing of individuals in irregular unions can only be performed in a non-liturgical manner to prevent confusion.

The bishops further clarified that such blessings should not be conducted during or in connection with a civil wedding ceremony. Nor should they incorporate attire, language, or symbols associated with a wedding.

God’s mercy

CBCN urged those in irregular unions to remain hopeful and open to conversion. However, the Catholic bishops insisted that the Church does not possess the authority to bestow a blessing on irregular unions such as same-sex marriage.

“The Declaration also reinforces the truth about God’s mercy. Asking for God’s blessing is not dependent on how good one is. Imperfection is the reason for seeking God’s grace,” they added.

The Catholic Bishops reassured Nigerians that the teachings of the Catholic Church on marriage stay the same. They thanked all the priests for their support of married couples.

They urged the priests to continue in their efforts to uphold the sanctity of holy matrimony. Also, they asked the priests never to do anything that would detract from this sacrament’s sacredness.

Pope says Roman Catholic priests can bless same-sex couples

On Monday, the 18th of December, 2023, Pope Francis allowed priests to bless same-sex couples, a significant advance for LGBT people in the Roman Catholic Church.

The leader of the Roman Catholic Church said priests should be permitted to bless same-sex and “irregular” couples, under certain circumstances.

But the Vatican said blessings should not be part of regular Church rituals or related to civil unions or weddings.

It added that it continues to view marriage as between a man and a woman.

Pope Francis approved a document issued by the Vatican announcing the change on Monday. The Vatican said it should be a sign that “God welcomes all”, but the document says priests must decide on a case-by-case basis.

Introducing the text, Cardinal Víctor Manuel Fernández, the prefect of the Church, said that the new declaration remained “firm on the traditional doctrine of the Church about marriage”.

But he added that in keeping with the Pope’s “pastoral vision” of “broadening” the appeal of the Catholic Church, the new guidelines would allow priests to bless relationships still considered sinful.

People receiving a blessing “should not be required to have prior moral perfection”, according to the declaration.

In the Catholic Church, a blessing is a prayer or plea, usually delivered by a minister, asking for God to look favourably on the person or people being blessed.

Cardinal Fernández emphasised that the new stance does not validate the status of same-sex couples in the eyes of the Catholic Church.

The declaration represents a softening of tone from the Catholic Church, although not a change in position. In 2021, the Pope said priests could not bless same-sex marriages because God cannot “bless sin”.

Pope Francis had suggested in October that he was open to having the Church bless same-sex couples.

Bishops in certain countries have previously allowed priests to bless same-sex couples, though the position of Church authorities remained unclear.

 

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