The Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) has made public its stance on the recent pronouncement of the Pope on same-sex marriage, stating that the teachings of the Catholic Church on marriage have not changed.
The bishops, in a statement signed by Lucius Ugorji, Archbishop of Owerri diocese, and Donatus Ogun, Bishop of Uromi, stated that the blessing of same-sex unions goes against God’s law and the teachings of the church.
The bishops explained in the statement that the declaration of the Pope seeks to explain the various forms of blessing that can be given to persons or objects in the Catholic Church, including the possibility of blessing people in irregular unions.
The CBCN said such unions include divorced and remarried couples whose previous marriages had not been annulled, those living in same-sex unions, those in polygamous unions, in concubinage, etc.
The bishops said this in response to the Fiducia Supplicans released by the Vatican, which has raised confusion among Christians and Catholics.
The bishops, in their statement, explained the difference between a formal celebration in the church and an informal blessing given to members of the church on request.
The statement read, “The Declaration acknowledges and carefully distinguishes between ritual, liturgical, and informal blessings.
“While ritual or liturgical blessings are imparted according to the established norms of the Church, informal blessings refer to prayers over people who ask for them outside the liturgy or any formal celebration in the Church.
“The Declaration offers a consideration of the possibility of extending the informal blessing to all God’s children, irrespective of their moral condition, when they ask to be blessed.
“Nevertheless, the Declaration insists that the blessing of persons in irregular unions and never the union itself can only take a non-liturgical form to avoid confusion. It should not be imparted during or in connection with a civil wedding ceremony or with clothing, words, and signs associated with a wedding”, the statement said.
The body explained that someone asking for a blessing is willing to live according to God’s commandments despite their imperfection. They said that people in irregular unions should not lose hope but continue to ask for God’s grace while remaining open to conversion.
It added that the declaration affirms the Catholic Church’s teaching on marriage as an “exclusive, stable, and indissoluble union of a man and woman.
While members of the church in same-sex unions can be blessed or prayed for individually, the Catholic Church would not bestow any liturgical or formal blessing on their union.
The CBCN assured the entire people of God that the teaching of the Catholic Church on marriage remains the same.
“ There is, therefore, no possibility in the Church of blessing same-sex unions and activities. That would go against God’s law, the teachings of the Church, the laws of our nation, and the cultural sensibilities of our people,” The bishops added.
The CBCN, in conclusion, thanked all priests for their accompaniment of married couples, asking them to continue in all they do to sustain the sacrament of holy matrimony and never to do anything that would detract from the sacredness of the sacrament.
Pope Francis recently agreed to the blessing of same-sex couples under certain circumstances. The blessings are, however, outside the formal or liturgical traditions of the church, devoid of any kind of ceremony or wedding.