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Priests across Germany have defied the Vatican’s messaging on gay relationships and blessed same-sex unions, in a planned event that was livestreamed by many of the more than 100 churches which participated.
In March, the Vatican released an official statement, approved by Pope Francis, declaring that the Catholic Church would never be able to bless same-sex marriages, calling them “sinful” and branding homosexuality a “choice.”
At the time, German theology professors opposed the statement, saying it was “marked by a paternalistic air of superiority and discriminates against homosexual people and their life plans.”
In response, German priests arranged a series of services starting on May 10 for same-sex couples to have their unions blessed in a Catholic church, CBS News reports.
“In view of the refusal of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to bless homosexual partnerships, we raise our voices and say: We will continue to accompany people who enter into a binding partnership in the future and bless their relationship,” the priests said in a statement.
In order to maximize visibility, many churches are livestreaming their blessings, allowing a potentially global audience to watch their defiance of the Vatican’s decree.
“We do this in our responsibility as pastors, who promise people at important moments in their lives the blessings that God alone gives,” the priests said in their statement. “We respect and value their love, and we also believe that God’s blessings are on them.
“Theological arguments and knowledge gained are sufficiently exchanged,” they continued. “We do not accept that an exclusive and outdated sexual morality is carried out on the back of people and undermines our work in pastoral care.”
Each of the participating churches offered statements detailing their individual services, with some blessing separate couples, others providing mass blessings, or allowing friendships and other relationships to be blessed.
“At the blessing celebration we want to bless love, which is diverse: old and young couples, short and long loves, love between man and woman, between woman and woman, and between man and man, love and every single person,” St. Mary’s Assumption in Buxtehude wrote.
“We celebrate love in its diversity and exclude no one: all people, couples and families — as colorful and diverse as they are — are cordially invited,” St. Jakobi Church in Coesfeld wrote.
The Parish of St. James in Frankfurt declared, “Life is colorful, love is colorful, God’s blessing is colorful. We celebrate and share this with each other [and] invite all those who want to celebrate and bless their love (or the longing for it) with us before God.”
Bernd Mönkebüscher, an openly gay priest and the first to come out without being removed from his parish, told the Washington Post that after the Vatican’s March announcement, more than 2,600 priests and pastoral officers across Germany signed a statement supporting same-sex blessings.
That response directly led to this week’s blessings, which were touted as “services for lovers.”
“We said that we wanted to send a conciliatory signal for people who feel misunderstood and who feel branded as sinners,” Mönkebüscher said. “And it encourages couples to think about receiving a blessing for themselves.”
In one livestream, Alexander Langwald and his husband received their blessing at St. Albertus Magnus monastery in Braunschweig.
Speaking to the Post, Langwald said the service was “about equality, that we all belong to God’s creation, no matter in which relationship we live.”
Hans-Albert Gunk, the priest who blessed Langwald and his husband, said, “God excludes no one from his love.”
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