Recent comments from Pope Francis have left Catholics calling for further clarification on same-sex blessings after the Papal seemed to suggest he would be open to the Church blessing people in same-sex relationships.
Responding to a group of five cardinals, who challenged him on the Church’s teaching on homosexuality, the Pope signalled such blessings could be considered if they did not convey “a mistaken concept of marriage”.
The cardinals raised the question of blessing same-sex unions in a set of formal questions, known as "dubia" ("doubts" in Latin).
Francis maintained that the Catholic Church defines marriage as an exclusive union between man and woman, adding that the Church still considered same-sex relationships "sinful" and would not recognise same-sex marriage.
However, he suggested there might be a possibility to offer some form of blessing in particular cases to non-marriage unions. Considering “pastoral charity” he implored priests to express understanding and kindness and not become judges “who only deny, reject, and exclude."
He mentioned that people sometimes ask for blessings as a way to connect with God and improve their lives, even when some actions were "objectively morally unacceptable".
Georgia Clarke - a commentator for Catholic Voices tells Premier his comments are about inclusivity but require further clarification:
“He is expressing a desire for all people, no matter what their sexual orientation is, to be able to feel part of the church, to be able to feel they can come forward for a blessing, regardless of their background.
“What isn't so clear, to me at least, is whether he's saying a couple can come forward together to request a blessing on their relationship. We are still waiting for further clarification.”
Francis has stated that such blessings should not become the norm or get blanket approval from Church jurisdictions such as dioceses or national bishops conferences.
The group of cardinals representing Asia, Europe, Africa, the United States and Latin America are requesting further clarification on the Pope’s comments.
Clarke tells Premier the Catholic Church can take steps to encourage understanding and inclusivity whilst maintaining its core principles.
“There are still tragic circumstances where people aren't welcoming to those who have a different sexual orientation, lifestyle or background. I think that that is contrary to the Gospel, Jesus opens up his love, and his welcome to everybody.
“The Pope said that we can absolutely stand for what we believe to be true. But that's not the only way to express love. That also includes kindness and patience and tenderness, and I'm not sure as a church, we have always been so tender and encouraging and welcoming to all people the way that we should be.”