Cardinal Oswald Gracias, Archbishop of Mumbai, Representative of the Asian Continent in the Council of Cardinals Photo: Infovaticana

Homosexual Couples: Catholic Churches in Asia and the Fiducia Supplicans declaration

Mumbai Cardinal Owald Gracias: “Blessing for all is part of our spirituality. The Vatican document affirms an attitude that should be obvious, it does not change the doctrine on marriage as those who misunderstand it claim’. Singapore Cardinal William Goh: “We show mercy but we do not approve of same-sex unions because without truth, love is compromised”.

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Nirmala Carvalho

(ZENIT News – Asia News / Mumbai, 01.02.2024).- The discussion underway in many Catholic communities around the world in the aftermath of the declaration Fiducia Supplicans, published with the authorisation of Pope Francis last December 18 by the dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, also touches Asia. The text addresses the issue of the blessings for couples in “irregular” situations from the point of view of canon law, including homosexual couples.

Card. Owald Gracias, Archbishop of Mumbai, who represents the continent in the Council of Cardinals, on the issue, calling for a distinction to be made between welcome to all – which the Vatican document recalls – and the doctrine on marriage.

“I believe that for a country like India, with its pluralism and religious richness, what is expressed by Fiducia Supplicans is a natural fact,” Card. Gracias told AsiaNews – Blessings are part of our spirituality, everyone in India asks for blessings. In these days I met Prime Minister Modi and he asked me to pray. I assured him of our prayers and blessings. Our Indian mentality is inclusive, it includes people of other faiths: everyone is searching for God, everyone is searching for truth, everyone is searching for spirituality’.

“Fiducia Supplicans has become the subject of controversy because it is misunderstood,” continued the Archbishop of Mumbai. “There is no change in Church doctrine on marriage between a man and a woman. The tradition of the Church, the Magisterium is very clear and there is no contradiction’.

“It is like when a person is about to go on a journey, comes on pilgrimage, wants a blessing to ask God to be with her. Everyone is entitled to God’s love and compassion. Therefore, there is no discrimination. And this does not depend on what the pope or the dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith says’.

Already in October 2018, Mumbai-born fashion designer Wendell Rodricks had approached the Archdiocese of Mumbai requesting an audience with Card. Oswald Gracias. He had an unusual request: to bless his project to start a helpline for the LGBTQ community, their families and friends and bring them closer to the Church.

“I was moved to tears,” Rodricks had later written on social media, “when Card. Gracias not only gave his total approval and support, but also agreed to advise his clergy to be more compassionate towards the LGBTQ community. I felt blessed, grateful and immensely joyful. In the smog-filled Mumbai, my heart felt a rainbow in the sky.

‘I have said it before and I want to say it again,’ explained the Archbishop of Mumbai in response to a question about that incident, ‘they are part of our family, they need our pastoral care. I met them when they came to me, sometimes privately, in my office. Jesus did not refuse any blessing. That is the idea and it is absolutely not a step towards sacramental marriage. I categorically assure you: it was my thought before and it is after this document. Indeed, I wonder if there was really any need for such a document: it is an obvious fact. A controversy is being raised unnecessarily, I am sorry that this document has been misunderstood’.

“In one of the sessions in which I dialogue with the faithful on the YouTube channel of the Archdiocese of Mumbai,” Card. Gracias to AsiaNews – this will certainly be one of the topics I will address. I will answer questions and explain in detail that Fiducia Supplicans has been instrumentalised, misunderstood and misinterpreted, giving it a broader meaning than it should have”.

The distinction highlighted by Cardinal Gracias is significant at a time when the legal status of same-sex unions is being debated in many Asian countries: in recent days, for example, the Bangkok parliament has given the go-ahead by an overwhelming majority to a bill that opens up the possibility of a law on same-sex marriage. Should the legislative process be completed, Thailand would join Taiwan and Nepal, which already have laws to this effect.

Similar tones to those of the archbishop of Mumbai had already been expressed in an official statement by the Philippine Bishops’ Conference, in the hours immediately following the dissemination of the text by the dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith: “The document speaks for itself and therefore does not require much explanation”, wrote the president Msgr. Pablo Virgilio David, quoting the salient passages – In fact, in paragraph 41, we read: ‘What is said in this Declaration regarding the blessings of same-sex couples is sufficient to guide the prudent and paternal discernment of ordained ministers in this regard.

Therefore, beyond the indications given above, no further answers are to be expected on possible ways to regulate the details or practices regarding blessings of this kind'”.

For his part, in a similar document addressed to his archdiocese, with a different emphasis, Singaporean Cardinal William Goh expressly states that “we are not blessing the unions of same-sex couples. We bless couples in irregular situations, such as the divorced and remarried, individuals struggling to be faithful to God’s commandments, and those who have aborted their children, just as we bless the sick, the elderly, and those who ask for spiritual and temporal blessings. We do not bless the sins of the individual, but rather the individual who is always loved by God, even when he is a sinner”.

“This statement,” he says, “rather than approving the blessing of irregular marriages and same-sex unions, sets the rules and limits for priests on how to bless these couples without these blessings being mistaken by others as the Church’s approval of such unions. Instead, this statement is the Church’s way of showing mercy, love and compassion for those who are struggling with difficult situations and who are facing the demands of the Gospel. It is a prayer for these people: that they will come to know that truth is love, without which love is compromised, and that there will only be peace in their lives when love and truth meet”.

“We are grateful to the Holy Father for authorising this declaration,” Card. Goh – so that the ministers of the Church do not act in such a way as to give others the wrong impression that the Church approves of homosexual unions. At the same time, it shows the Church’s mercy and love for all sinners, and that we are all sinners seeking to grow in authenticity and perfection’.

 

 

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