The Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) has released a statement condemning Vatican’s orders allowing priests to offer blessings to same-sex couples, while stating it remained committed to its duty of “clarifying” the Pope’s statement.
In a radical shift in Catholic doctrine aimed at making the church more inclusive, Pope Francis on Monday permitted priests to bless the marriages of same-sex couples.
Monday’s eight-page document, subtitled “On the Pastoral Meaning of Blessings,” which was issued by the Vatican and approved by the pope, spelled out specific situations. An 11-point section was titled “Blessings of Couples in Irregular Situations and of Couples of the Same sex”.
According to a statement signed by archbishop of Owerri diocese, Lucius Ugorji, and the bishop of Uromi, Donatus Ogun; anyone requesting for a blessing which is a prayer or plea usually delivered by a minister, has a desire to live according to God’s commandment.
As such, “those in irregular unions are invited never to lose hope but rather to ask for God’s grace and mercy while remaining open to conversion,” the statement issued on Wednesday said.
“In conclusion, the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria assures the entire People of God that the teaching of the Catholic Church on marriage remains the same,” the statement added.
“There is, therefore, no possibility in the Church of blessing same-sex unions and activities. That would go against God’s law, the teachings of the Church, the laws of our nation, and the cultural sensibilities of our people,” The Cable reports.
The CBCN urged its priests to continue to sustain the sacrament of holy matrimony and “never to do anything that would detract from the sacredness of this sacrament.”
More Catholic priests have continued to speak out against the Vatican’s approval of same-sex blessings.
Archbishop of Kazakhstan, Tomash Peta, in a joint statement on Tuesday alongside Auxiliary Bishop Athanasius Schneider, condemned the Vatican doctrinal office’s guidance and accused the Catholic Church of propagating “gender ideology,” adding that the pope’s new stance is a “great deception”.
Peta forbade all priests and parishes in his archdiocese from blessing same-sex couples, noting that it “directly and seriously contradicts Divine Revelation and the uninterrupted, bimillennial doctrine and practice of the Catholic Church.”
The Vatican’s orders do “not walk uprightly according to the truth of the Gospel,” he added, calling on the Pope to revoke the permission to bless couples in an “irregular situation” and same-sex couples, so that the Catholic Church may shine clearly as the “pillar and ground of the truth”.
This is not the first time the Pope has worked to open the Church to the LGBTQ+ community.
Recall that recently, Pope Francis hosted a group of transgender women in the Vatican, in his bid to deepen an unlikely relationship that has come to underline his drive to make the Catholic Church more inclusive for the LGBTQ community.
‘This is a fantastic opportunity for us transexuals,’ said Claudia Victoria Salas, 55, a transgender tailor and cleaner originally from Argentina who was seated opposite the pope during the event. ‘I send the Pope a big kiss!’ she added.
Since Francis became the Catholic Pope in 2013, the Argentine has sought to take the Church in a more inclusive direction. In January, Francis called on Catholic bishops to welcome LGBTQ+ people and criticized laws criminalizing homosexuality.
The church’s doctrinal office in the Vatican recently declared last month that transgender people can now be baptized, serve as godparents, act as witnesses to religious weddings, and also receive same-sex blessings.
Earlier last month, the Pope fired a Texan Bishop, Joseph Strickland, a fierce critic who has questioned his leadership and decisions to allow gays and transgenders in the Catholic Church. Bishop Strickland is one of the leading voices opposed to the Pope’s reforms.