Sunday 24 December 2023


Catholic congregants in Zimbabwe have expressed disquiet at the Vatican’s move to allow the church’s priests to bless same-sex couples, saying this is abominable in the majority of African countries and others outside the axis of the so-called “free world”.

Last week, the Vatican announced a radical shift in policy aimed at making the church more inclusive while maintaining its strict ban on gay marriages.

This has torched controversy across the world, particularly in Africa and the Muslim world where same-sex marriages remain detestable.

While the Vatican’s announcement was hailed by some as a step towards breaking down discrimination in the Catholic Church, especially around LGBTQ+ rights, this has not been welcomed in conservative societies.

A document from the Vatican’s doctrine office elaborates on a letter Pope Francis sent to two conservative cardinals that was published in October.

In that preliminary response, Pope Francis suggested such blessings could be offered under some circumstances if the blessings weren’t confused with the ritual of marriage.

The document repeats that condition and elaborates on it, reaffirming that marriage is a lifelong union between a man and a woman.

It stresses that blessings in question must not be tied to any specific Catholic celebration or religious service and should not be conferred at the same time as a civil union ceremony. Moreover, the blessings cannot use set rituals or even involve the clothing and gestures that belong in a wedding.

Last month, the Vatican said it was permissible under certain circumstances for trans people to be baptised as Catholics and serve as godparents. In interviews, some of the congregants said the announcement by the Pope showed lack of respect to God who created people of different sexes.

Ms Mercy Gororo of Harare said biblically, sexual intimacy was only permissible within the marital relationship of a man and a woman.

“This was the design established by God at creation,” she said. “We are against gay unions because they are not God’s original creative intention for humanity and therefore the practice goes against God’s express will for all human beings, especially those who trust in Christ.” Mr Prince Hwede of Chitungwiza said gay unions militated against population growth as no children could be borne out of them.

“If people of the same sex marry together, it means they cannot bear children. We must consider that for us to be in this world, they were both men and women,” he said.

Patient Dzenga said by destroying Sodom and Gomorrah, God had showed his abhorrence for gay unions.

“We are now living in Sodom and Gomorrah, where people are doing evil deeds. How can a man marry a man? People now do not have fear for the Lord. Some are doing this for money,” she said.

However, Ms Lashmar Mukono of Chitungwiza offered a different view saying same sex marriage should be a right for those willing to be in such unions.

“Everybody should enjoy the same rights regardless of sexual orientation. Let them be accepted in society. It was not their fault to be what they are. We have to accept what nature is,” she said.

Pope Francis said priests should decide on a case-by-case basis and “should not prevent or prohibit the Church’s closeness to people in every situation in which they might seek God’s help through a simple blessing.

The Pope hinted that an official change was in the works in October in response to questions put forward by five conservative cardinals at the start of a synod of bishops at the Vatican.

While the response in October was more nuanced, last week’s eight-page document, whose subtitle is “On the Pastoral Meaning of Blessings”, spelt out specific situations.

An 11-point section was titled “Blessings of Couples in Irregular Situations and of Couples of the Same sex”.  The church teaches that same-sex attraction is not sinful but homosexual acts are. Herald


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