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African Catholic Bishops reject Vatican's same-sex blessings

Pope Francis, second from left, celebrates a mass in the Barthelemy Boganda Stadium, in Bangui, Central African Republic, Monday, Nov. 30, 2015.   -  
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Andrew Medichini/AP

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With the Pope's approval, African Catholic bishops will not carry out the extra-liturgical blessings proposed for same sex-couples in a declaration issued by the Vatican on what it calls irregular couples.

The president of the Symposium of the Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM) cited "confusion" and a "risk of scandal" in a letter released Thursday (Jan. 11).

The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines scandal as “an attitude or behaviour which leads another to do evil."

Beforehand, SECAM president, Congolese Cardinal Fridolin Ambongo, met with Pope Francis to discuss the matter.

The Declaration Fiducia supplicans, published on December 18, opens the possibility of blessing couples whose relationship is not "valid" in the Catholic church, including unmarried couple, divorced-and-remarried couples and same-sex couples.

However, the document issued by the Christian Catholic Church's doctrine bureau and signed by the Pope stirred a controversy among Catholics, some Africans.

In Zambia, Catholic bishops said that the declaration should be tacken for further reflection and not for implementation citing the law “ in the country which forbids same-sex unions and activities”.

In a document issued to clarify the original declaration and address concerns on January 4, the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith said for example that: when "there are laws that condemn the mere act of declaring oneself as a homosexual with prison and in some cases with torture and even death," "a blessing would be imprudent."

In communion with the Pope, the African church “reaffirmed its commitment to continuing pastoral assistance to all its members.”

Speaking to the faithful, Cardinal Ambongo pointed out that Fiducia supplicans emphasizes that “the Church’s doctrine on Christian marriage and sexuality remains unchanged.”