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Bishop Georg Bätzing, president of the German bishops' conferenceYouTube screenshot

(LifeSiteNews) — The head of the German Bishops’ Conference (DBK), Bishop Georg Bätzing, has said that he “welcomes” the Vatican’s new Declaration on the “blessings” of homosexual unions. He praised the decision to broaden the definition of blessings to include “the diversity of lifestyles.” 

Other heterodox German bishops have also praised the Vatican Declaration for respecting people’s “life choices” and for promoting pastoral care for “queer people.”  

In an official press release by the DBK, Bätzing praised “Fiducia Supplicans,” the Declaration published on December 18 by the Dicastery for the Doctrine of Faith (DDF) and approved by Pope Francis. 

READ: BREAKING: Pope Francis publishes norms for clergy to ‘bless’ homosexual couples 

“I very much welcome this document and am grateful for the pastoral perspective it takes,” the head of the DBK stated. 

Fiducia supplicans explains that it is possible and permitted in principle for the ordained minister to respond to the wishes of couples who ask for a blessing for their partnership, even if they do not live according to the norms of the Church in every respect.” 

“This means that a blessing can be given to couples who are unable to marry in the Church due to divorce, for example, and to same-sex couples,” Bätzing continued. 

“The practice of the Church knows many forms of blessings. It is good that this treasure is now elevated for the diversity of lifestyles.” 

“The text speaks of blessings as being ‘among the most widespread and evolving sacramentals’ (8).” 

“It is undoubtedly in keeping with the dicastery’s carefully exercised responsibility for the doctrine of the faith that this text attaches great importance to the precise distinction between a blessing and sacramental marriage and the associated dogmatic teaching on marriage,” Bätzing noted. “According to Catholic teaching, marriage, a permanent and indissoluble union between a man and a woman that is open to offspring, is a sacrament that the spouses confer on each other and that is sealed by the blessing of the Church.”  

The German prelate claimed that the requests for a “blessing” of couples in irregular relationships “is anchored in many ways in the traditions of Catholic popular piety and concerns all those areas of life that people consider to be particularly important to them.” 

“The request for a blessing is a humble gesture towards God in which people express that they entrust themselves to God’s goodness,” he continued. “In the blessing, God’s love is promised as a strengthening on the path of life. The declaration states that the same moral conditions that are required for the reception of the sacraments need not and cannot be demanded for the giving of a simple blessing.” 

“The declaration [Fiducia supplicans] applies theological categories and terms in a responsible manner,” Bätzing said. 

“It draws a clear line between unwavering fidelity to the teachings of the Church and the pastoral requirements of an ecclesial practice that wants to be close to the people. A pastoral scope of action is described here, which illustrates a responsible ecclesial practice.”  

“It is expressly emphasized at the end of the declaration: The framework set out here is clear enough to give ordained ministers the necessary certainty for their actions.”  

The Archbishop of Hamburg, Stefan Heße, also welcomed the Vatican declaration. “It is an expression of respect for the reality of life and the life choices of people who want to be there for each other. And it gives us the opportunity to bless without demanding anything,” said Heße in a statement on Monday in Hamburg. The declaration was a “real Christmas present” for him. 

Bishop Heinrich Timmerevers of Dresden also expressed his delight at the Vatican declaration. He sees the text as an encouragement to continue promoting pastoral care for “queer people” in the spirit of Pope Francis, Timmerevers told Katholische Nachrichtenagentur (KNA). The declaration attempts a “pastoral balancing act that, on the one hand, does not neglect the teaching of Christian marriage and, on the other, emphasizes the value of people’s relationships, even in same-sex relationships,” said Timmerevers. The text takes a realistic view of the fact that people are in need of blessing. “Blessing – in short, thanking and asking – is no longer conditioned by whether someone meets all moral ideals equally.”  

Several German bishops have already allowed “blessings” of same-sex unions in their diocese in the past months, citing Pope Francis’ and DDF head Cardinal Victor Fernandez’s words as justification. The Archbishop of Berlin, Heiner Koch, and the Bishop of Speyer, Karl-Heinz Wiesemann, gave permission to priests to conduct “blessing ceremonies” for same-sex couples in their dioceses this year.