CV NEWS FEED // The Symposium of the Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM) have published a response to the recent Vatican document Fiducia Supplicans stating that there will be no blessings given to same-sex couples in Africa, stemming from “concern about potential confusion and scandal within the Church community.”
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,” wrote SECAM President and Archbishop of Kinshasa Cardinal Fridolin Ambongo Besungu in the letter:
They remind, as Fiducia supplicans clearly does, the clergy, religious communities, all believers and people of good will, that the Church’s doctrine on Christian marriage and sexuality remains unchanged.
For this reason, we, the African Bishops, do not consider it appropriate for Africa to bless homosexual unions or same-sex couples because, in our context, this 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.
“Furthermore, it remains very difficult to be convincing that people of the same sex who live in a stable union do not claim the legitimacy of their own status. We, African Bishops, insist on the call for the conversion of all,” Ambongo added:
Jesus comes to bear witness to the tenderness of God: “He did not come to call the righteous, but sinners”. Of this there is no doubt. But Jesus also stretches out his hand to the sinner so that he may rise, so that he may convert…
As the salt of the earth and the light of the world, the merciful mission of the Church is to go against the tide of the spirit of the world and to offer it the best, even if it is demanding.
The statement synthesizes all responses of the African bishops to Fiducia Supplicans, or “Declaration on the Pastoral Meaning of Blessings,” and in light of the clarification press release released several weeks later.
Ambongo noted that the SECAM January 11 statement “has received the agreement of His Holiness Pope Francis and of His Eminence Cardinal Víctor Manuel Fernández, Prefect of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith.”
Rome-based journalist Diane Montagna shared the full text of the letter on social media on January 11.
“Within the Church family of God in Africa, this Declaration has caused a shockwave, it has sown misconceptions and unrest in the minds of many lay faithful, consecrated persons and even pastors and has aroused strong reactions,” Ambongo wrote.
“The African Bishops’ Conferences emphasize 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,” Ambongo continued:
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.
The constant teaching of the Church describes homosexual acts as “intrinsically disordered” and contrary to the natural law. These acts, considered as closing the sexual act to the gift of life and not proceeding from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity, must not be approved under any circumstances.
“To support this position, a large majority of the interventions of the African Bishops are based above all on the Word of God,” Ambongo added, citing Scriptural “passages which condemn homosexuality,” in both the Old and New Testament.
“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,” Ambongo continued.
Ambongo highlighted the African Episcopal Conferences’ previous individual statements on Fiducia Supplicans and how they reaffirmed “their unwavering attachment to the Successor of Peter, their communion with him and their fidelity to the Gospel,” and “recognize collectively that the Church’s doctrine on marriage and the family remains unchanged.”
“They all noted the passages where Fiducia supplicans reaffirmed this traditional position of the Church and explicitly excluded the recognition of homosexual marriage,” Ambongo continued. “This position, rooted in the Sacred Scriptures, has been taught without interruption by the universal Magisterium of the Church.”
“Therefore, rites and prayers that could blur the definition of marriage- as an exclusive, stable and indissoluble union between a man and a woman, open to procreation – are considered as unacceptable,” he wrote.
Ambongo added that the individual African Episcopal Conferences also reaffirmed “the Church’s commitment to continuing pastoral assistance to all its members,” and that “clergy are encouraged to provide welcoming and supportive pastoral care, particularly to couples in irregular situations.”
“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,” Ambongo concluded, adding that he calls
on Christian communities not to allow themselves to be shaken. 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.