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After backlash on same-sex blessings Pope encourages listening and learning for a different future

by Ros Mayfield

At a high-profile VIP event in Rome, Pope Francis has urged Vatican leaders to avoid "rigid ideological positions" that prevent them from understanding today's reality.  The appeal comes just days after the pontiff appeared to formally allow priests to say blessings over same-sex couples in what some described as a radical change of Vatican policy.  In 2021 the Vatican barred such blessings on the grounds that God "does not and cannot bless sin".

Conservative supporters of the Pope told Premier the purpose of the document released by the Vatican's doctrine committee on Monday was to encourage the blessing of individuals, without subjecting them to "third degree investigation", but they said it explicitly banned blessing a relationship that did not conform with the Catholic teaching on marriage. 

Their understanding of the Pope's message was that everyone is on a journey towards greater holiness, and as such should not be rejected from the altar rail.

The text was clear, that blessings of those who were in a homosexual relationship should not in any way give the impression of a marriage ceremony.

Nevertheless, in a rare backlash against their leader, bishops in several countries have issued statements since the document was published, to clarify their own position - saying that same-sex blessings will not be introduced under their jurisdiction.

Francis encouraged cardinals, bishops and senior laypeople at the Vatican to listen to one another and to others.

Speaking in the Hall of Blessings, Francis said it was important to keep advancing and growing in their understanding of the truth.

"Let us remain vigilant against rigid ideological positions that often, under the guise of good intentions, separate us from reality and prevent us from moving forward," he said.

"We are called instead to set out and journey, like the Magi, following the light that always desires to lead us on, at times along unexplored paths and new roads."

Catholic teaching is that gay people must be treated with dignity and respect, but that marriage is a lifelong union between a man and woman, as part of God's plan for humanity, and is intended for the sake of creating new life.

Without specifically mentioning Monday's announcement, Pope Francis used to the high-profile VIP event for Vatican hierarchy to encourage those present to look towards to a future that might be different than the past: 

"It takes courage to journey, to move forward," he said. "Sixty years after the council, we are still debating the division between progressives and conservatives. This isn't difference. The real difference is between lovers and those who have lost that initial passion."

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