In a statement signed by the current president of the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar, Cardinal Fridolin Ambongo, archbishop of Kinshasa, DRC, the bishops of Africa say that they “generally prefer – each Bishop remaining free in his diocese – not to offer blessings to same-sex couples.”
The statement is titled a “synthesis of the responses from the African Episcopal Conferences to the Declaration Fiducia supplicans.”
The cardinal begins by stating, “The message that I transmit to you today has received the agreement of His Holiness Pope Francis and of His Eminence Cardinal Victor Manuel Fernandez, Prefect of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith.”
He explains that the message “presents a consolidated summary of the positions adopted by various National and Inter-territorial Episcopal Conferences across the African continent.”
And, in sum,
The Episcopal Conferences generally prefer – each Bishop remaining free in his diocese – not to offer blessings to same-sex couples. This decision stems from concern about potential confusion and scandal within the Church community.
Cardinal Ambongo’s statement goes on to mention and cite various Scriptural references. But he adds that “in addition to these biblical reasons, the cultural context in Africa, deeply rooted in the values of the natural law regarding marriage and family, further complicates the acceptance of unions of persons of the same sex, as they are seen as contradictory to cultural norms and intrinsically corrupt.”
The message says that Fiducia supplicans “caused a shockwave” in the Church family in Africa and has “sown misconceptions and unrest in the minds of many lay faithful, consecrated persons and even pastors.”
This, the cardinal says, despite the document’s expression of the unchanged doctrine of the Church on marriage, which he goes on to reiterate.
Cardinal Ambongo also notes that clergy are encouraged to provide “welcoming and supportive pastoral care, particularly to couples in irregular situations” and that “people with a homosexual tendency must be treated with respect and dignity, while reminding them that unions of persons of the same-sex are contrary to the will of God and therefore cannot receive the blessing of the Church.”
Communion with the Pope
The Kinshasa cardinal said that
In summary, the Episcopal Conferences across Africa, which have strongly reaffirmed their communion with Pope Francis, believe that the extra-liturgical blessings proposed in the Declaration Fiducia supplicans cannot be carried out in Africa without exposing themselves to scandals.
“[I]n our context,” he says, the blessing “would cause confusion and would be in direct contradiction to the cultural ethos of African communities. The language of Fiducia supplicans remains too subtle for simple people to understand.”
In language echoing the subsequent press release from the DDF, the cardinal said that “some countries prefer to have more time for the deepening of the Declaration which, in fact, offers the possibility of these blessings but does not impose them. “
“In any case,” he added, “we will continue to reflect on the value of the general theme of this document, apart from just blessings for couples in an irregular situation, that is to say on the richness of spontaneous blessings in everyday pastoral care.”
The cardinal concludes with the assurance of Pope Francis’ blessing and a reference to the ideological colonization against which the Holy Father has frequently defended Africa.
His Holiness Pope Francis, fiercely opposed to any form of cultural colonization in Africa, blesses the African people with all his heart and encourages them to remain faithful, as always, to the defense of Christian values.