Pope Francis has signed off on a ruling to allow Catholic priests to bless same-sex couples.
A ‘blessing’ often consists of a prayer and a reading from the Bible by a priest.
With an estimated one billion followers, Catholicism is the largest Christian faith in the world.
Catholic Church and the Vatican
This week’s ruling was handed down by a body within the Vatican tasked with promoting the broader community’s understanding of Catholicism, called the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith.
The same body previously ruled against allowing blessings for same-sex couples in 2021 over a clash in the Church’s ‘values’.
The Catholic Church opposes same-sex marriage and teaches that it is sinful to act on same-sex attractions.
Vatican same-sex ruling
The body found that same-sex couples, and those in “irregular situations”, could be granted a blessing by a priest. It said the Church “welcomes all who approach God”.
It also noted that blessings can be given spontaneously, finding that “no one is to be excluded from them”.
The ruling made clear that any blessing given to a same-sex couple should not resemble or be interpreted as a marriage ceremony.
U.S. priest James Martin said the ruling was a “major step forward” in the Church’s support of LGBTQIA+ people.
He also said it recognised the “deep desire in many Catholic same-sex couples for God’s presence in their loving relationships”.
However, it also received some criticism.
A theologian at the University of Notre Dame in the U.S, Ulrich Lehner, called the decision “the most unfortunate public announcement in decades”.
He said the “the way the statement was presented might suggest that the church has changed its views on same-sex relationships and divorce, which is not the case”.