Pope Francis approves allowing Catholic priests to bless same-sex couples

The Vatican issued a declaration Monday.

December 18, 2023, 1:35 PM

Pope Francis has formally signed off on allowing Catholic priests to bless same-sex couples -- a radical change in Vatican policy.

A declaration from the Vatican's doctrine office released Monday provides guidance and details the declaration, which states, in part, "When people ask for a blessing, an exhaustive moral analysis should not be placed as a precondition for conferring it. For those seeking a blessing should not be required to have prior moral perfection."

"Ultimately, a blessing offers people a means to increase their trust in God," the declaration states. "The request for a blessing, thus, expresses and nurtures openness to the transcendence, mercy and closeness to God in a thousand concrete circumstances of life, which is no small thing in the world in which we live."

Pope Francis waves to the crowd as he appears at the balcony to deliver his Christmas Urbi et Orbi blessing in St. Peter's Square at The Vatican on December 25, 2022.
Andreas Solaro/AFP via Getty Images

"By removing barriers to priests blessing LGBTQ couples, the Pope accurately recognizes that LGBTQ people and our relationships are worthy of the same affirmation and support in the Church, and this strengthens couples in their faith and to the community," GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis said in a statement Monday. "This is the latest in a historic pattern of actions and announcements from Pope Francis which show that LGBTQ people should not be used as a dividing issue, and we are worthy of love, respect and compassion."

In October, the pope publicly responded to cardinals who questioned his affirmation of the LGBTQ community in the Catholic Church, suggesting it may be possible to bless same-sex unions -- a move applauded at the time by LGBTQ advocates.

"Pope Francis' response is both unprecedented and compassionate and continues to urge every Catholic and leader toward acceptance and recognition of LGBTQ people," Ellis said in October.

New Ways Ministry, an LGBTQ Catholic outreach group, said at the time that the pope's statement was a significant advancement in the inclusion of LGBTQ Catholics in the church.

In August, Pope Francis told the hundreds of thousands gathered before him for World Youth Day in Lisbon, Portugal, that the Catholic Church is for "todos, todos, todos" -- everyone, everyone, everyone.

When asked if "todos" included the LGBTQ community, he said it is still a place for everyone.

Pope Francis has also criticized laws that criminalize homosexuality.

Throughout his papacy, Francis has withheld the church's position on doctrinal matters but introduced a softer approach to those who didn't follow the church's teaching, especially regarding LGBTQ people. When a journalist asked Francis a question about gay priests while returning from the first foreign trip of his papacy in 2013, the pope stunned people with his response: "If a person is gay and seeks God and has good will, who am I to judge?"

ABC News' Phoebe Natanson, Ines de la Cuetara and Kiara Alfonseca contributed to this report.

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