By Patrick B. Craine

HELSINKI, Finland, October 13, 2009 ( – Finland's Catholic Bishop, Teemu Sippo, has warned that the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland (ELCF) would risk hurting their relationship with the country's Catholic Church should they choose to bless same-sex marriages, reports the Finnish broadcasting company YLE.

Bishop Sippo, 62, a member of the Congregation of the Priests of the Sacred Heart, was ordained Bishop of Helsinki in September and is the first Finnish-born Catholic bishop since the Reformation.  The entire country comprises one diocese, with about 10,000 Catholics.  Approximately 80% of the estimated 5.3 million residents are classified as Lutheran.

While the ELCF currently does not allow the blessing of same-sex unions, Bishop Sippo is worried that they will follow the practice of the Swedish Lutheran Church, which already blesses same-sex “marriages” and is now considering celebrating “weddings.”

In March, the ELCF Bishops' Conference's working group on same-sex “marriage” issued their report, which recommended against a ceremonial rite for blessing state-registered same-sex unions.  At the same time, they recommended that a blessing could be implemented akin to the blessing of a home.

“The Catholic Church cannot bless same-sex couples,” said Bishop Sippo, affirming the Church's teaching that marriage is a sacrament.  “It doesn't view it as morally acceptable. … Everything that happens in Sweden usually reaches Finland sooner or later.”

The Bishop also spoke out, says YLE, against the practice of passing out free condoms to youth.  “Handing out condoms is like telling people to use them,” he said.  “I believe youths should instead be encouraged to practice abstinence.”