“The Synodal Way is making decisions that do not correspond exactly to the current doctrine of the Church,” said Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Pope’s Secretary of State, regarding the authorization of blessings for homosexual couples by the German Synodal Way. Questioned by a group of journalists on the sidelines of an event organized in Rome by La Civiltà Cattolica on March 13, 2023, the Pope’s “right hand man” said that there would be a time for “dialogue” and comparison of positions between Rome and the German bishops.
On March 10, the German Synodal Way, gathered in Frankfurt for its fifth and final session, adopted by a very large majority (93%) the text “Blessing Celebrations for Loving Couples,” which authorizes blessings for homosexual couples but also for the divorced and remarried.
The Holy See, however, has opposed “in a very clear way” any blessing of homosexual couples, recalled Cardinal Parolin, referring to the note published by the dicastery of the Doctrine of the Faith on March 15, 2021. “This is the position of Rome,” he said.
This note, which prohibited any form of blessing for same-sex couples, was at the time highly criticized in Germany.
Cardinal Parolin also stated that “a local, particular Church cannot take such a decision, which involves the discipline of the universal Church.”
He then confirmed that a dialogue and analysis would soon take place with the German bishops to determine if this reform “is taking place within the framework of canon law.”
The Secretary of State said he considers that the decisions of the synodal path did not constitute a “rebellion,” preferring to speak of “tensions.”
According to our information, the cardinal summoned a representative of the German episcopate ahead of the session, expressing concern about the lack of communication between Rome and the bishops across the Rhine.
The text approved by the Germans provides for a probationary period of three years, and blessings can begin as soon as a prayer of blessing is recognized by the German Bishops’ Conference (DBK). During the discussions preceding the vote on the text, several members of the synodal path pointed out that some clergy in Germany were already offering these blessings in practice.
The Belgian precedent
In adopting the text authorizing homosexual blessings, the Germans relied on what they considered to be favorable signs sent by the Holy See during the ad limina visit of the Belgian bishops last November. The Belgian bishops had presented their text to Rome at that time, and were less assertive than the Germans.
The Belgians had insisted that it was not, strictly speaking, a “blessing.” However, the Bishop of Antwerp, Johan Bonny, who was present in Frankfurt as an observer, stated publicly in the presence of the Apostolic Nuncio to Germany, Nikola Eterovic, that the name “prayer of blessing” had been chosen by the Flemish to “help the Vatican a little.”