Fiducia Supplicans, the declaration by the Vatican Dicastery for the Doctrine of Faith (DDF) permitting the blessing of same-sex couples and couples in other “irregular situations,” was perceived as “cultural colonization” in Africa, the president of the Symposium of Episcopal Conference of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM) said.

In a March 17 interview with the French-language Catholic television channel KTO, Cardinal Fridolin Ambongo deplored the lack of “synodality” in the release of the DDF document that has evoked mixed reactions and deep division among Catholic bishops across the world since its publication on Dec. 18, 2023.

“In this declaration, there was a whole cultural problem, because the African continent perceived Fiducia Supplicans as cultural colonization,” said Ambongo, the archbishop of Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of Congo. 

What Fiducia Supplicans proposes is “a kind of Western imperialism, but on a cultural level,” he said, adding that “practices that are considered normal in the West were imposed on other peoples.”

“I think this explains the virulence of Africa’s reaction,” Ambongo said, alluding to the Jan. 11 decision of the bishops in Africa not to implement Fiducia Supplicans on the continent following a Dec. 20 appeal for opinions from presidents of Catholic bishops’ conferences of Africa and its islands in view of having a “single synodal pronouncement.”

“I don’t think this text was necessary at the time,” Ambongo went on to say referring to the declaration. “We had just come out of the first session of the Synod on Synodality, and we’re now waiting for the second session. All these questions we raised during the first session of the synod; we’re going to come back to them and we would have gained a lot by waiting for the end of the second session and mature this kind of subject in a spirit of synodality.”

“Personally, I think that what surprised and shocked us the most was the way in which the text was published,” Ambongo said. “When you read the content of the document, there’s no revolution because we do bless people. We bless everyone, we even bless animals, we bless cars. Sometimes I even bless pens students use.”

“Blessings can be given to anyone,” he continued. “This means that what caused the problem wasn’t the blessing, because we already give blessings. What came as a bit of a shock, and I think we should have prepared public opinion a little better during the synod, was the blessing of the homosexual couples.”

The Congolese cardinal, who has been a member of Pope Francis’ Council of Cardinals since his  appointment in October 2020 and reappointment in March 2023, further said: “I believe that if we had consulted beforehand, if we had analyzed Fiducia Supplicans in the spirit of synodality, perhaps we could have presented it in a different form and with a different tone, taking into account the sensitivities of others.”

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Following conflicting reactions to Fiducia Supplicans, the prefect of the DDF, Cardinal Víctor Manuel Fernández, called upon each bishop to “make that discernment” on its implementation. 

In a five-page press release on Jan. 4, the DDF provided clarification on Fiducia Supplicans, writing that its implementation will depend “on local contexts and the discernment of each diocesan bishop with his diocese.”

In Africa, Catholic bishops issued a “consolidated summary” of their responses against the possibility of blessing couples as suggested in Fiducia Supplicans.

In their five-page response to Fiducia Supplicans, SECAM members said they “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 Catholic bishops said the “spontaneous” and nonliturgical blessings, which Fiducia Supplicans proposes, “cannot be carried out in Africa without” causing “scandals.”

In the March 17 interview, Ambongo said that since the issuing of the Jan. 11 SECAM statement, there is “peace and tranquility” on the continent.

“Since then, we no longer speak of Fiducia Supplicans in terms of virulent opposition to Rome or the Holy Father,” he said.

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“The Church on the continent has a very clear stance,” he continued. “We welcome homosexuals as human beings, as sons and daughters of God, we don’t reject them, but we don’t assume that this sexual orientation is the one we can teach our children.”

This article was originally published by ACI Africa, CNA's news partner in Africa, and has been adapted by CNA.