African bishops: ‘No blessing for homosexual couples in the African Churches’

Cardinal Fridolin Ambongo Cardinal Fridolin Ambongo, president of the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM). | Credit: François-Régis Salefran, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

In response to new Vatican guidelines permitting nonliturgical pastoral blessings of homosexual couples, the bishops of Africa issued a united statement in which they said there will be “no blessing for homosexual couples in the African churches.”

The letter, issued Jan. 11, was written by Cardinal Fridolin Ambongo, president of the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM).

Ambongo said that the letter is a synthesis of all the African bishops’ opinions, which were sent in response to a request he issued on Dec. 20.

In the letter, Ambongo said that while the African bishops “have strongly reaffirmed their communion with Pope Francis,” they “believe that the extra-liturgical blessings proposed in the Declaration Fiducia Supplicans cannot be carried out in Africa without exposing themselves to scandals.”

Ambongo said the Vatican’s Fiducia Supplicans declaration, issued by the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith on Dec. 18, “caused a shockwave” in Africa and “has sown misconceptions and unrest in the minds of many lay faithful, consecrated persons, and even pastors.”

In response, Ambongo said that the African bishops remind the faithful, “as Fiducia Supplicans clearly does,” that “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 because, in our context, this would cause confusion and would be in direct contradiction to the cultural ethos of African communities,” the African cardinal said. 

The letter is the first instance of the Church in an entire continent rejecting same-sex blessings as proposed in Fiducia Supplicans. 

Ambongo said that the language used in Fiducia Supplicans is “too subtle for simple people to understand” and that it is “very difficult to be convincing that people of the same sex who live in a stable union do not claim the legitimacy of their own status.” 

The letter goes on to list many more reasons why the African Church will not be offering same-sex couples blessings, citing multiple biblical passages. One of the passages cited by the African bishops is what they called the “scandal of the homosexuals in Sodom” in Genesis 19, which they said demonstrates that “homosexuality is so abominable that it will lead to the destruction of the city.”

In addition to the biblical reasons, Ambongo also said that “the cultural context in Africa, deeply rooted in the values of the natural law regarding marriage and family, further complicates the acceptance of unions of persons of the same sex, as they are seen as contradictory to cultural norms and intrinsically corrupt.” 

“The African Bishops’ Conferences emphasize that people with homosexual tendencies 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,” Ambongo said.

“Therefore,” he went on, “rites and prayers that could blur the definition of marriage — as an exclusive, stable, and indissoluble union between a man and a woman, open to procreation — are considered unacceptable.”

According to Ambongo, the African bishops’ letter “received the agreement” of both Pope Francis and the Vatican’s prefect of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Victor Manuel Fernandez. 

Ambongo called on Christian communities “not to allow themselves to be shaken” by the confusion gripping the Church following the release of Fiducia Supplicans.

He reassured the faithful that “his holiness Pope Francis, fiercely opposed to any form of cultural colonization in Africa, blesses the African people with all his heart and encourages them to remain faithful, as always, to the defense of Christian values.”

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