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Cardinal Cristóbal López RomeroVideo screenshot

RABAT, Morocco (LifeSiteNews) — A split has emerged in Africa as bishops’ conferences in the north of the continent announced they will offer blessings for same-sex couples, ignoring an earlier statement from the head of all the bishops’ conferences of Africa and Madagascar ruling out such blessings.

“When people in an irregular situation come together to ask for a blessing, we can give it provided that it does not cause confusion for the interested parties themselves or for others,” declared the bishops’ conference of the north region of African (CERNA).

Penned January 15, the statement came from CERNA’s president Cardinal Cristóbal López Romero, along with bishops from the region. The bishops stated, regarding Fiducia Supplicans, that:

… when a person individually asks for a blessing, with the corresponding heart disposition, he will be given it. When people in an irregular situation come together to ask for a blessing, we can give it provided that it does not cause confusion for the interested parties themselves or for others.

Such a statement comes in direct opposition to the January 11 letter sent by Cardinal Fridolin Ambongo, president of the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM) and Archbishop of Kinshasa.

READ: Pope Francis backs down, permits African bishops to ban blessings of homosexual ‘couples’ 

Ambongo wrote that, though the bishops of the continent “strongly reaffirmed their Communion” with Pope Francis, they would not be practicing blessings for homosexual couples as proposed by the December 18 text Fiducia Supplicans. 

Such blessings could not take place without causing “scandals,” Ambongo wrote, and since the Church’s teaching “on marriage and sexuality remains unchanged,” his letter declared that:

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.

Offering blessings to those in same-sex relationships would make it “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,” the letter continued.

Instead, Ambongo’s letter stated the bishops “insist on the call for the conversion of all.” 

CERNA’s statement comes as a result of their week long assembly and highlights the continued divide evident through the Church which Fiducia Supplicans has exposed. 

Ambongo’s continent-wide response was striking in that it moved against blessing same-sex couples, although he posited this move not in theological arguments but in terms of African culture. 

Ambongo – one of Pope Francis’ C9 cardinal advisors – now appears to have had his role as president of the continent’s bishops’ conferences effectively ignored. 

CERNA’s Cardinal Romero was created cardinal in 2019, at the same consistory as Ambongo. 

Romero was raised to the episcopate by Pope Francis in 2018 and participated most recently in the 2023 session of the Synod on Synodality. 

Africa has emerged as the center of opposition to the Vatican’s text proposing blessings of homosexual couples, with numerous bishops’ conferences announcing their rejection of the document just days after its publication. 

READ: FULL LIST – Where do bishops stand on blessings for homosexual couples?

Catholic bishops in Cameroon not only rejected such blessings, but added  “homosexuality falsifies and corrupts human anthropology and trivializes sexuality, marriage, and the family, the foundations of society. In fact homosexuality sets humanity against itself and destroys it.”

With Romero now openly taking a different stance to Ambongo, it remains to be seen if further African bishops will quietly ignore Ambongo’s letter and offer blessings of homosexual couples. 

Despite the controversy in recent weeks, Catholic teaching remains unchanged. The Catechism of the Catholic Church No. 2357 teaches that: “‘Homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.’ They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.”

Indeed, under the leadership of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger in 1986, the CDF issued a document instructing bishops on the pastoral care of homosexual persons. The CDF admonished bishops to ensure they, and any “pastoral program” in the diocese, are “clearly stating that homosexual activity is immoral.”