Rwandan Catholic Bishops affirm stance against homosexual blessings amidst controversial Vatican statement

By Esther Muhozi
On 22 December 2023 at 09:29

The Episcopal Conference of Rwanda has declared that the church cannot bestow blessings upon homosexual individuals, citing the contradiction with both God’s commandment and Rwandan cultural norms.

This statement was made through an announcement released on December 21, seemingly at odds with the content of a letter titled "Fiducia supplicans" (Faith to Pray to God), issued by the Office of Pope Francis on December 18, 2023. The Pope’s document emphasizes that when a priest offers a blessing, there should be no scrutiny of sexual relationships, as everyone is seeking God’s love and mercy, and exclusion should be avoided.

Pope Francis acknowledges that those in non-traditional families, including homosexual couples, may be in a state of sin but should not be denied God’s love and compassion. The Rwandan Catholic Bishops’ Conference acknowledged the controversy surrounding blessings for cohabiting couples and same-sex individuals.

In their announcement, the bishops clarified that the letter does not alter the Church’s teachings on the sacrament of Holy Matrimony, reserved for a man and a woman joined in love and with the purpose of procreation, without separation.

The statement underscores the nature of blessings as prayers to God, seeking his sanctification, healing, and assistance for personal transformation. It firmly distinguishes the blessing of cohabiting couples from the sacrament of marriage, emphasizing that homosexuality is incompatible with God’s law and cultural values.

The epicopal conference in Rwanda urges priests, clerics, and all faithful to uphold the unchanged teachings of the Church on Christian marriage. They encourage support for young people and married couples who cherish the sacrament of marriage and its sacred significance.

In Africa, there is disagreement with the Vatican’s announcement, reflecting the Church’s conservative stance. Various bishops’ conferences in African countries, including Nigeria, Zambia, Côte d’Ivoire, and Kenya, have issued statements expressing their cultural disapproval of blessings for homosexual individuals.

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference in Africa has solicited comments from its members regarding the Vatican’s document, anticipating submissions by the second week of January.

Opinions on the Vatican’s decision to bless homosexuals vary even among monks in Europe. The sensitive nature of the issue is heightened in European societies, where any dissent may pose risks, whether one is religious or not.

The document Fiducia supplicans raises concerns about potential divisions within the Catholic Church, akin to the schisms seen in other denominations over issues like homosexuality.

The Catholic Church, with over 1.3 billion members worldwide, has a history of making controversial decisions, with disagreements arising in the past over language changes in Mass, the role of women in the Church, the Virgin Mary’s innocence, and other issues.

Despite global growth, the Church faces declining membership in certain regions, leading to the closure of some temples.

Rwandan Catholic Bishops have affirmed stance against homosexual blessings amidst controversial Vatican statement.