Catholic Bishops throughout Africa have rejected the Vatican’s recent proposal to bless same-sex couples.
Despite their unwavering commitment to the Pope and the Gospel, Catholic Bishops in Africa united under the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM), have collectively responded to a recent Vatican declaration.
SECAM was established in 1969 and inaugurated by Pope Pual VI Pope Paul VI at Lubaga Cathedral during the first Pope’s visit to sub-Saharan Africa. The symposium enables African bishops to manage religious work in solidarity and collegiality at the Pan-African level and promote the catholic church`s participation in education, spirituality, and church family.
In a letter issued on Thursday, January 11 by Cardinal Fridolin Ambongo, the President of SECAM, the bishops expressed a shared inclination, stating that they ‘generally prefer’ not to extend blessings to same-sex couples.
“The Church’s doctrine on Christian marriage and sexuality remains unchanged. For this reason, we, the African Bishops, do not consider it appropriate for Africa to bless homosexual unions or same-sex couples in our context, this would confuse and would be in direct contradiction to the cultural ethos of African communities.” the five-page letter reads in part.
Cardinal Ambongo, who is also the Metropolitan Archbishop of Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of Congo, emphasized that the letter is a culmination of opinions from all African bishops, responding to the call he issued on December 20, just two days after the publication of the now controversial document on blessing same-sex marriages, known as Fiducia Supplicans.
In the letter, Ambongo asserted that while the African bishops “have strongly reaffirmed their communion with Pope Francis,” they hold the belief that the extra-liturgical blessings proposed in the Declaration Fiducia Supplicans cannot be conducted in Africa without risking the occurrence of scandals.
Published on December 18, “Fiducia supplicans” introduces the prospect of blessing couples in “irregular” situations, as defined by Catholic morality, which includes same-sex couples. However, the document stipulates that such blessings must take place outside any formal liturgical rite and should never resemble a wedding ceremony.
The document has stirred controversy within the global Catholic Church, prompting the Vatican’s Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith to issue a clarification in response to the widespread backlash and ensuing confusion.
In a press release dated January 4, the Dicastery expressed the intention to “help clarify” the varied responses to the declaration and urged a comprehensive and composed reading of the document for a better grasp of “its meaning and purpose.
Nevertheless, African bishops highlight that “The language of Fiducia supplicans remains too subtle for simple people to understand. Furthermore, it remains very difficult to be convinced that people of the same sex who live in a stable union do not claim the legitimacy of their status.”
Meanwhile, Cardinal Ambongo added that clergy are “encouraged to provide welcoming and supportive pastoral care, particularly to couples in irregular situations.” However, he emphasized the stance of the African Bishops’ Conferences, underlining the importance of treating individuals with a homosexual tendency with respect and dignity.
“The African Bishops’ Conferences emphasize that people with a homosexual tendency must be treated with respect and dignity while reminding them that unions of persons of the same sex are contrary to the will of God and therefore cannot receive the blessing of the Church,” stated the Cardinal.
He further highlighted the consistent teaching of the Church, affirming that homosexual acts are deemed “intrinsically disordered” and “contrary to natural law.”
The letter comes at a time when numerous African bishops, including those in Uganda, have individually or at a country-based conference firmly reiterated their stance, assuring the Catholic faithful that the principles and traditions governing marriage in the Catholic Church remain unwavering and unchanged.
For Instance, Archbishop Grace Dr. Paul Ssemogerere of Kampala emphasized this point when asked about the matter during his Christmas message. According to Catholic doctrine, he stated, marriage is defined as the union between one man and one woman.
Archbishop Ssemogerere underscored that the Church unequivocally prohibits and has not endorsed the blessing of any alternative unions.