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May 03, 2021
Catholic parishes across Germany plan to offer “blessing services for lovers” on and around May 10 in a campaign that is aimed in part at gay and lesbian couples – and will heighten the pressure in the church debate on the issue. In this 2015 file photo, LGBTQ supporters wave a flag outside the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington. (CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn) 

Bonn (KNA) “Love wins” – that is the name of the initiative in which Catholic chaplains in parishes across Germany plan to invite people to “blessing services for lovers” on and around May 10. It was launched in Hamburg at the weekend.

The campaign’s website said the aim was to celebrate “the diversity of people’s different life plans and love stories” and to ask for God’s blessing.

Gay and lesbian couples are also invited, which is attracting public attention because the Vatican declared in mid-March that the Catholic Church had no authority to bless same-sex relationships as such unions did not correspond to the divine will. That statement has been widely criticized among church members in Germany. “I have blessed buildings and sugar beet harvesting machines,” said the Wuerzburg priest Burkhard Hose. “So why not also people who love each other?”

“I have blessed buildings and sugar beet harvesting machines,” said the Wuerzburg priest Burkhard Hose. “So why not also people who love each other?”

Hose and Bernd Moenkebuescher, a priest from the town of Hamm in North Rhine-Westphalia, started collecting signatures against Rome’s ban on blessing same-sex couples and have so far gathered some 11,000. Birgit Mock, the vice-president of the Catholic German Women’s Federation (KDFB), said: “The current discussion could lead to a historic step: a positive appreciation of responsibly lived sexuality in the Catholic Church in Germany.”

Mock and Bishop Helmut Dieser head one of four working groups of the Synodal Path reform project. The group deals with sexual morality, and the church’s approach to homosexuality is among its topics. Bishop Dieser has made clear that his office does not allow him to give a mandate to bless gay couples—but added: “In the case of requests to bless same-sex couples, pastoral ministers are bound by their conscience.” That doesn’t sound like a ban. However, the German Bishops’ Conference criticized the blessing services. “They are not suitable as an instrument of church-political manifestations or protest actions,” said the conference president, Bishop Georg Baetzing.

Baetzing is in an awkward position: the Vatican is increasingly critical of the debates in Germany but grassroots members are becoming ever more vocal in their demands for reforms. However, there is strong opposition to change at the universal church level. Australian Cardinal George Pell, for example, warned that part of the church in Germany was “resolutely heading in the wrong direction.”

After Hamburg, there will be further blessing services in about 70 locations. Why around May 10 of all days? Hose, a college chaplain, referred to the Orthodox Church which commemorates the biblical patriarch Noah on this day. God made a covenant with him after the Flood—under the sign of a rainbow. That is not far removed from the colors of the rainbow flag of the gay rights movement.

The argument is unlikely to meet with approval from the Orthodox Church. Metropolitan Hilarion of the Moscow Patriarchate praised the Vatican’s ban on blessing same-sex couples. On this point, the teachings of the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Churches were in agreement, he said.

More: Europe / LGBT

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