Vatican's blessings for 'same-sex couples' triggers rejection of ecumenical dialogue by Copts

(Photo: Vatican News)Pope Francis delivers Christmas greetings and his Urbi et Orbi blessing in St. Peter's Square on Dec. 25, 2021.

The Vatican's Dec. 18 ruling approved by Pope Francis that Roman Catholic priests can  bless same-sex couples, as long as they are not part of regular Church rituals or liturgies, has run into heavy flak from one of the most influential Oriental Orthodox Churches.

"Now, as liberals celebrate and same-sex couples begin receiving public blessings, some are wondering why the Pope delivered the groundbreaking rule now, more than a decade after he started his pontificate with a resoundingly inclusive message on gay issues, 'Who am I to judge?' he famously said in 2013, when asked about a priest rumored to be gay," The New York Times reported on Dec. 22, 2023.

People who have talked to him over the years and Vatican analysts say Francis' thinking evolved through frequent private conversations with L.G.B.T.Q. Catholics and the priests and nuns who minister to them.

The Coptic Church in Egypt has, however, suspended theological dialogue with the Catholic Church and reaffirmed its opposition to "all forms of homosexual relationships" in a blow to the Vatican document that sets a way for blessing members of same-sex relationships, according to The Catholic Herald on March 9.


The declaration – "Fiducia Supplicans: On the Pastoral Meaning of Blessings," was published Dec. 18 by the prefect of the Vatican's Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Víctor Manuel Fernández.

The Church teaches that same-sex attraction is not sinful but that homosexual acts are.

Since his election in 2013, Francis has tried to make the more than 1.35-billion-member Church more welcoming to LGBT people without changing moral doctrine, Reuter's Philip Pullella wrote on Dec. 19, 2023.

According to the declaration traditional Catholic doctrine on marriage remains unchanged, clergy are encouraged in the document to exercise personal prudence and wisdom in joining in the prayer "of those persons who, although in a union that cannot be compared in any way to a marriage," nonetheless wish to entrust themselves to God with a blessing.

The Catholic Herald reported on march 9 that the document has encountered an unprecedented level of opposition within the Catholic Church.

It cites bishops' conferences in Africa, the Netherlands, Poland, Hungary and individual dioceses including nine in France and many more across the United States and the rest of the world saying they would refuse anything that appears to be a blessing of a homosexual couple.

Now the Coptic Church in Egypt has "decided to suspend the theological dialogue with the Catholic Church, re-evaluate the results that the dialogue has achieved since its beginning twenty years ago, and establish new standards and mechanisms for the dialogue to proceed."

In a March 7 release of the Church's Synod, the Coptic Church said it "affirms its firm position of rejecting all forms of homosexual relationships, because they violate the Holy Bible and the law by which God created man male and female, and it considers that any blessing, whatever its type, for such relationships is a blessing for sin, and this is unacceptable."

This is the latest criticism on Fiducia Supplicans made by an Eastern Church.


The Synodal Biblical-Theological Commission of the Moscow Patriarchate, the leadership of the Russian Orthodox Church, spoke on the Vatican document on Feb. 20, saying "this innovation reflected a sharp departure from Christian moral teaching."

Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev of Budapest, head of the commission that studied Fiducia Supplicans, described the document as "a kind of shock."

"We always cite the Catholic Church as a beacon of traditional Christianity," he revealed, "the Church which always supports the traditional Christian values and moral teaching in spite of the fact that from many different angles it is attacked for this traditionalism and stubbornness."

"Everyone now will believe that the Church blesses homosexual couples," he said in an interview, adding it "deceives those who receive such a blessing and those who witness it."

Despite such objections – both inside and outside the Catholic Church – Pope Francis has defended the document.

"The intent of the 'pastoral and spontaneous blessings' is that of demonstrating concretely the closeness of the Lord and of the Church to all those who, finding themselves in different situations, ask for help in carrying forward – sometimes in starting – a path of faith," Francis said on Jan. 26.

"I want briefly to underline two things: The first is that these blessings, outside any context or form of a liturgical character, do not require moral perfection for being received; the second, that when a couple spontaneously comes forward to request [these blessings], it's not the union that is blessed, but simply the persons who together made the request," said Francis.

"Not the union, but the persons, naturally taking account of the context, the sensibilities, and the places in which one lives, and the most appropriate way of doing it," the Pope said.

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