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Bishop Sithembele Sipuka (L), Cardinal Stephen Breslin (R)Video screenshot

PRETORIA, South Africa (LifeSiteNews) — An emerging split is appearing in Africa as the Southern African bishops’ conference rejected the continent’s leading prelate and stated that will implement blessings for homosexual couples “with prudence.”

In a statement issued January 30, the bishops from Southern Africa (SACBC) announced briefly that they had decided that “the stipulations of the Declaration (Fiducia Supplicans) be implemented with prudence.”

The bishops’ statement came at the conclusion of their plenary meeting, during which they discussed topics related to “synodality,” the national elections, and the Vatican’s December 18 text Fiducia Supplicans. 

In full, their brief statement read:

Regarding the Vatican document on blessings of persons in irregular unions Fiducia Supplicans, the bishops agreed that the stipulations of the Declaration be implemented with prudence.

In a video-recorded press conference, SACBC spokesman Cardinal Stephen Breslin acknowledged that the bishops’ stance was a “slightly different stand from the rest of Africa,” saying it was due “ultimately” to the fact that “it’s up to the local bishop to see how to implement this.”

“This is quite clear, because it’s a pastoral issue, not a doctrinal issue. It’s certainly not a criticism of them,” Breslin said about the different stance taken by the African bishops opposing Fiducia Supplicans, adding that “they must just see and assess their own particular situations.” 

Continuing, SACBC president Bishop Sithembele Sipuka noted that “same-sex unions” are “not in accordance with the will of God, “and yet the cardinal [Breslin] has said even people who have deviated, or are deviating from the will of God, are not excluded from the blessings of God, especially if they spontaneously ask for this blessing. Giving it brings a sense of hope, you know, that these people may eventually repent.”

Sipuka continued by saying that individuals find “different” ways to God, “maybe you go this way or that way,” and that it was “with that desire” that the SACBC had decided to move forward with implementing Fiducia Supplicans. 

Breslin added that there is currently “an opportunity for us all to realize that we are all meant to live chaste lives,” and that “any couple that comes, our prayer is obviously that they will chaste lives.”

“Chastity means that you live your sexuality according to particular status in life,” Breslin said.

“The difficulty that the Church has in this,” he continued, “is not that somebody’s gay, and it’s not even that they live together, it’s their sexual expression which is not in accordance with God’s (will). 

“So I think the prayer is always for people to live a chaste life and in talking about homosexuals or other people in irregular situations it is actually a challenge to all of us to make surer that we do live chaste lives,” Breslin said.

The SACBC statement cautiously accepting and implementing Fiducia Supplicans comes in opposition to the continent-wide response issued by Cardinal Fridolin Ambongo on January 11 in which he collated the responses of bishops’ conferences across African and Madagascar. Such blessings of homosexual couples could not take place without causing “scandals,” and since the Church’s teaching “on marriage and sexuality remains unchanged,” Ambongo’s 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.

Since then, however, the bishops in the north of the continent announced that they will offer blessings for same-sex couples. 

READ: Northern African bishops’ conference endorses blessings for homosexual ‘couples’

The January 15 statement from the conference of the north region of African (CERNA) read: “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.”

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 that “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 both CERNA and the SACBC now opposing Ambongo, it remains to be seen if additional African bishops in the center of the continent will quietly ignore Ambongo’s letter and offer blessings of homosexual couples or defend Catholic teaching.