Opposing the Vatican, the Flemish Episcopate of Belgium has published a liturgy for the blessing of homosexual couples, the Flemish Episcopate announced in a statement released on September 20, 2022.
Belgian Cardinal Jozef De Kesel and the entire Flemish episcopate of Belgium have published a liturgy for the blessing of homosexual couples, the Flemish episcopate announced in a statement released on September 20, 2022. The three-page text proposed by the Flemish bishops includes a liturgical structure and two prayers for homosexual spouses and the community. In March 2021, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith asserted, however, that the blessing of same-sex unions – as a relationship that involves sexual practice outside marriage – could not be considered lawful.
The bishops’ communiqué proposes the course of a moment of prayer whose “content and form” can be modified in agreement with a pastoral agent who accompanies the homosexual couple. This liturgy begins with an inaugural word, followed by an introductory prayer, a reading of the Scriptures and then two more prayers. The first is for homosexual people who want to express “their commitment to each other”. The second is for the community surrounding the two spouses, who “pray for the grace of God to work in them so that they take care of each other”.
Bless their union, this love, this fidelity.
The proposed liturgical unfolding continues with a prayer of intercession, an Our Father, a final prayer and, to conclude, a “blessing”. This celebration, assures IMedia Willy Bombeek, to whom the Flemish bishops had entrusted the mission of working on the pastoral care of homosexual people, aims to “bless their union, this love, this fidelity”.
The press release, explains a spokesperson for the Belgian episcopate reached by IMedia, stems from the report that Willy Bombeek carried out with a team from the interdiocesan service of family pastoral care in Belgium. The prelates justify the approach based on the exhortation of Pope Francis Amoris Laetitia. In this text dating from 2015, the Pope explained that everyone, regardless of their sexual orientation, must be “respected in their dignity and welcomed with respect” (AL 250).
The bishops want to give “a more structural character” to the pastoral care of homosexual people who seek to “recognize, accept and live positively their orientation”. While emphasizing that a lasting homosexual relationship “is not a religious marriage”, they consider that it can be “a source of shared peace and happiness”.
“Not against the Vatican”
The statement from the Flemish bishops, if it relies on the magisterium of Pope Francis, ignores the ‘Responsum’, dated February 22, 2021, written by the congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. This declared that the blessings of homosexual couples were not lawful.
The dicastery had justified this decision by explaining that it is not possible “to approve and encourage a choice and a practice of life which cannot be recognized as being objectively ordered to the revealed purposes of God”.
However, the Pope had informally confided his perplexity in the face of the appropriateness of this text emanating from his administration. He had told a visitor he received a few days after the publication of the note, I.Media had learned.
“This is not a statement against the Vatican,” insists an official of the Flemish bishops’ conference contacted by IMedia. “It is a response to the invitation of Pope Francis contained in Amoris Laetitita“, he continues, considering that the apostolic exhortation, “which emanates from a synod”, has more weight than a declaration from a dicastery.
Precedents in Belgium
This manager also wishes to qualify the original nature of this text. Thus, other dioceses, such as that of Liège, in the French-speaking part of Belgium, have recently proposed formulas to welcome homosexual couples wishing to entrust their journey to God.
At the end of 2021, the diocese of Liège thus published a brochure in which is proposed a sequence of a time of prayer for a homosexual couple. This prayer is led by a trained person, “a priest, a deacon, a religious or any other lay person mandated for this purpose by the dean or parish priest of the pastoral unit”. It ends with this formula:
Deign to receive and bless their life project / as well as all those who wanted to be associated with it. / In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
Include homosexuals in the community
In their press release, the Flemish bishops underline the persistence of “homophobic violence” in society despite “increasing social recognition of homosexuals” within it and within the Church. The proposed pastoral care, they insist, must on the contrary invite “meeting and conversation” and lead to “integration into the community of faith of homosexual people”.
To enable the implementation of this pastoral care, the Flemish bishops announce the appointment of an interdiocesan coordinator in charge of the pastoral care of homosexuals, Willy Bombeek, a layman and himself a homosexual. They ask each diocese to appoint a person in charge of this pastoral care.
The Flemish bishops will be, with their French-speaking colleagues, in Rome from November 21 to 26 for their ad limina visit. They will then meet Pope Francis and visit several departments of the Roman Curia, in particular that of the Doctrine of the Faith.