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Pope Francis opens possibility for blessing same-sex unions

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(NEW YORK) — Pope Francis suggested it may be possible to bless same-sex unions in a newly public response to cardinals who questioned the pope’s affirmation of the LGBTQ community in the Catholic Church.

In the July letter, which is written in Spanish, he reaffirmed that “the Church has a very clear understanding of marriage: an exclusive, stable, and indissoluble union between a man and a woman, naturally open to procreation,” according to the Vatican News.

However, he advocated for “pastoral charity.”

“The defense of objective truth is not the only expression of this charity; it also includes kindness, patience, understanding, tenderness and encouragement. Therefore, we cannot be judges who only deny, reject and exclude,” he said, according to Vatican News.

He added 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.”

New Ways Ministry, an LGBTQ Catholic outreach group, said in a statement that though his statement is not “a full-fledged, ringing endorsement of blessing their unions,” it is a significant advancement in the inclusion of LGBTQ Catholics in the Church.

In August, Pope Francis called on the hundreds of thousands gathered before him to yell that the Catholic Church is for “todos, todos, todos” — everyone, everyone, everyone.

When asked if “todos” included the LGBTQ community, he said that though the Church has its laws, it is still a place for everyone, including the LGBTQ community.

Pope Francis has also criticized laws that criminalize homosexuality.

News of the Pope’s comments come two days before the start of a major three-week meeting at the Vatican to discuss the state of the Catholic Church and its future. The three-week synod, or meeting, starts at the Vatican on Wednesday, Oct. 4 and will run until Oct. 29.

During this period, more than 450 people from around the world — cardinals, bishops, clergy, religious and laypeople — will take part in the worldwide gathering.

The meeting will address some hot-button issues like the role of women in the church and the inclusion of the LGBTQ+ community. A number of advocacy groups are expected to come to Rome and the Vatican to gain attention for their cause throughout the synod. These groups represent issues such as ending clergy abuse, the women’s ordination conference and more.

Some Church watchers are calling this Synod on Synodality a historical event, while some conservative church leaders and commentators have speculated that the gathering could cause harm to the Church and undermine Catholic teaching.

LGBTQ advocates applauded the decision.

“Pope Francis’ response is both unprecedented and compassionate and continues to urge every Catholic and leader toward acceptance and recognition of LGBTQ people,” said Sarah Kate Ellis, GLAAD president and CEO.

About 71% of Americans think same-sex marriage should be legal, matching the high Gallup recorded in 2022. Public support for legally recognizing gay marriages has been consistently above 50% since the early 2010s.

The synod will begin with a mass with new cardinals in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican on Wednesday.

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