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The Associated PressMarch 10, 2023
people sitting at desks in a large conference roomParticipants attend the fourth synodal assembly of Germany's Synodal Path in Frankfurt in a Sept. 9, 2022, file photo. (CNS photo/Julia Steinbrecht, KNA)

BERLIN (AP) — A meeting between Germany’s Catholic bishops and lay representatives agreed Friday to call for the church to approve blessings of same-sex unions.

The three-day gathering, which is part of the “Synodal Path” launched in 2019 in response to the sex abuse crisis that has rocked the church in Germany and many other countries, brings together more than 200 representatives of Catholic life in Germany.

A majority, 176 out of 202 participants, voted in favor of same-sex blessings starting from March 2026. Fourteen participants voted against them, while 12 abstained. Crucially, the necessary two-thirds backing of the 67 German bishops was also reached, the news agency DPA reported.

A majority of 176 participants voted in favor of same-sex blessings starting from March 2026.

Many congregations already perform such ceremonies, but these aren't formally approved by the Catholic Church, a position the Vatican restated in 2021.

In an effort to assuage concerns from Rome, German church leaders have insisted the process won’t trigger a schism.

However, Pope Francis himself said in a January interview with The Associated Press that the process might become harmfully “ideological.”

For the global Catholic Church, the pontiff has called for a two-part synod, or assembly, that will bring bishops and laity to discuss the future direction of the church and ways in which it can rejuvenate its mission.

At the same time, German bishops face pressure from frustrated grassroots Catholics in a country where Christians are roughly equally divided between Protestants and Catholics.

This is a developing story; please check back for updates.

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