The Pope said Catholic priests "cannot be judges who only deny, push back and exclude" in an eight-page response to questions from five cardinals
Pope Francis has suggested he would be open to some Catholic priests blessing same-sex unions, a potentially major reversal on the official Vatican position.
The 86-year-old pontiff expressed his stance on the matter in an eight-page letter, released on Monday, in response to five cardinals’ formally-submitted questions about the matter, according to the Vatican News, an outlet officially affiliated with the Catholic Church.
Though he stated that marriage is an "indissoluble union between a man and a woman, naturally open to procreation," the pope said Catholic priests “cannot be judges who only deny, push back and exclude.”
In the Spanish-language letter, which was written in July, the pontiff wrote that "pastoral prudence must adequately discern whether there are forms of blessing, requested by one or more persons, that do not convey a mistaken concept of marriage,."
“For when a blessing is requested,” he added, “it is expressing a plea to God for help, a supplication to live better, a trust in a Father who can help us live better.”
He went on to state that "decisions that may be part of pastoral prudence in certain circumstances should not necessarily become a norm," seemingly suggesting that requests for blessings should be considered on a case-by-case basis.
The letter was released ahead of a major meeting at the Vatican where LGBTQ+ issues will be on the agenda, per NBC News.
This is not the first time the pope has signaled his support for same-sex unions. The pope made headlines in Oct. 2020 when he declared his support for the civil unions of same-sex couples in comments featured in the documentary Francesco.
"What we have to create is a civil union law. That way they are legally covered," he said, according to a previous The New York Times report. "I stood up for that."
"They're children of God and have a right to a family," he added, per The Washington Post. "Nobody should be thrown out or be made miserable because of it."
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"We are all children of God, and God loves us as we are," he added.
The pope’s comments on same-sex unions come less than three years after the Catholic Church said it will not bless same-sex unions because God "does not and cannot bless sin.”
In March 2021, the Vatican said that the Catholic community should welcome gay people with "respect and sensitivity," but that their unions would not receive the same treatment.
The Vatican said the "positive elements" present in such relationships "cannot justify these relationships and render them legitimate objects of the ecclesial blessing."
"The declaration of the unlawfulness of blessings of unions between persons of the same sex is not therefore, and is not intended to be, a form of unjust discrimination, but rather a reminder of the truth of the liturgical rite and of the very nature of the sacramentals, as the Church understands them," the statement said.
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