A new letter from Pope Francis to the Catholic church’s cardinals suggesting a way to bless same-sex unions has been published, and it offers a glimmer of hope for LGBTQ+ people who practice Catholicism.
The letter came as a response to conservative cardinals who challenged Pope Francis to “affirm church teaching on homosexuality ahead of a big meeting where LGBTQ+ Catholics are on the agenda,” according to NPR.
Though the suggestion that same-sex union could be blessed, the letter also indicated that “such blessings could be studied if they didn’t confuse the blessing with sacramental marriage.”
Francis’ letter further details that marriage is between a man a woman by Catholic definition, but addresses questions from the cardinals’ on gay unions saying “pastoral charity” requires patience and understanding that regardless, priests cannot become judges “who only deny, reject and exclude.”
The church has long rejected same-sex marriages, maintaining that in Catholic belief “marriage is an indissoluble union between man and woman.” However, Pope Francis has been one of the first popes to voice some tentative support for same-sex couples.
In 2020, Pope Francis gave an interview claiming LGBTQ+ people are also children of God and that though they have been shunned and condemned by many religious communities, they “ought to have legal protections that recognize their unions.”
New Ways Ministry, an organization which advocates for LGBTQ+ Catholics, said the letter “significantly advances” the acceptance of LGBTQ+ Catholics into the church.
Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry’s executive director, commented on the Pope’s suggestion: “The allowance for pastoral ministers to bless same-gender couples implies that the church does indeed recognize that holy love can exist between same-gender couples, and the love of these couples mirrors the love of God.”