Pope Francis has hit back at those criticizing his decision to allow blessings for same-sex couples, saying the critics are guilty of hypocrisy.
“No one is scandalized if I give a blessing to an entrepreneur who perhaps exploits people: and that is a most serious sin,” the Pope said in an interview in the latest edition of Italian magazine Credere, to be published on Thursday, February 8.
“Whereas they are scandalized if I give it to a homosexual… This is hypocrisy! We all have to respect each other. Everyone! The heart of the document is welcome.”
Last year, the 87-year-old Pontiff authorized priests to offer informal blessings of couples in “irregular” unions in a landmark document issued on December 18, 2023. It is the first time the Vatican has allowed for such blessings, having previously forbidden any such move.
But the decision has sparked contrasting reactions inside the church. While those in Western churches have largely welcomed the decision, a body representing bishops in Africa said they would not be offering blessings because they “do not consider it appropriate for Africa,” adding that it “would cause confusion and would be in direct contradiction to the cultural ethos of African communities.”
The Pope has described the criticism of blessings in Africa as a “special case” influenced by culture, while the African bishops, despite the disagreement, have maintained their loyalty to the Pope.
Criticism has also been voiced among a vocal section of conservatives inside the church, many of them in the United States and parts of Europe, and which Pope Francis has previously said “belong to small ideological groups.”
The Vatican has insisted that the blessings for same-sex couples are not of the “union” but for the people who request them.
“I don’t bless a ‘same-sex marriage,’ I bless two people who love each other and I also ask them to pray for me,” he told priest Don Vincenzo Vitale, who conducted the interview.
“Always in confession, when these situations come, homosexual people, remarried people, I always pray and bless. Blessing should not be denied to anyone.”
He added that he was talking about people who are eligible to be baptized and wish to be part of the church.
Francis’ authorizing of blessings for same-sex couples is part of his broader efforts to shift the church’s tone and approach to LGBTQ+ Catholics, although this has been met with resistance from some sections within Catholicism.
Addressing questions about his health and reduced mobility, Francis said the church is “governed with the head, not with the legs,” and he reiterated his desire for church leaders to be close to their people.
He said that “we clerics sometimes live in comfort” and need to understand “the work, the suffering of people.”