Vatican Approves Blessings For Same-Sex Couples 

The Vatican announced this week that Roman Catholic priests can administer blessings to same-sex couples as long as they’re not a part of regular Church rituals or liturgies. The “landmark ruling” was approved by Pope Francis and released to the public in a document from the Vatican’s doctrinal office. 

This declaration reversed a previous ruling from 2021 that said blessings for same-sex couples would not “legitimize irregular situations but be a sign that God welcomes all,” according to reports from Reuters

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The declaration also added that this new ruling should not be confused with the Catholic Church’s sacrament of heterosexual marriage. Reuters reported that “priests should decide on a case-by-case basis and should not prevent or prohibit the Church’s closeness to people in every situation in which they might seek God’s help through a simple blessing.”

The Church teaches that while same-sex attraction is not sinful, homosexual acts are. Pope Francis has made various proclamations since his election in 2013 in support of the LGBT community. 

Father James Martin, an American Jesuit priest who ministers for the LGBT community, called the document “a major step forward in the church’s ministry” to them.

Martin said “the document recognizes the deep desire in many Catholic same-sex couples for God’s presence in their loving relationships, along with many priests, I will now be delighted to bless my friends in same-sex unions.” 

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According to Francis DeBernardo, an executive director of a group that advocates for LGBT rights in the church known as New Ways Ministry, said that “the document’s importance cannot be overstated. 

The document said the “form of the blessing should not be fixed ritually by ecclesial authorities to avoid producing confusion with the blessing proper to the Sacrament of Marriage.

It can be applied to those who do not claim a legitimation of their own status, but who beg that all that is true, good, and humanly valid in their lives and their relationships be enriched, healed, and elevated by the presence of the Holy Spirit.”

“Ultimately, a blessing offers people a means to increase their trust in God, which must be nurtured, not hindered.”

The document also stated that “the blessing should not be linked to or timed with a civil marriage ceremony and be performed with none of the clothing, gestures, or words that are proper to a wedding.

Places for such blessings might be in other contexts, such as a visit to a shrine, a meeting with a priest, a prayer recited in a group, or during a pilgrimage”.

Pope Francis Criticizes ‘Selfish’ Couples Who Adopt Pets Instead Of Kids

Speaking in front of a general audience at the Vatican Wednesday, Pope Francis took a bold move at upsetting the masses of animal lovers by saying that couples who adopt pets instead of children are showing “a form of selfishness” and that it “diminishes us.”

“How many children in the world are waiting for someone to take care of them,” Francis said. “And how many spouses wish to be fathers and mothers but are unable to do so for biological reasons; or, although they already have children, they want to share their family’s affection with those who have been left without.”

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Francis — who dived into the topic while discussing Joseph, the foster father of Jesus — called adopting “one of the highest forms a love” a person can give. He also told potential parents to not be afraid of adopting children, and that while there are always risks, there are “more risk in not having a child.”

According to the Child Welfare Information Gateway, adopting a child can amount anywhere from $15,000 to $50,000 depending on the type of adoption, such as private or independent. Around 140,000 children are adopted by American families each year, while there are an estimated 153 million orphans worldwide. Meanwhile, per the ASPCA, around 4.1 million pets are adopted in the U.S. each year (2 million dogs and 2.1 million cats).

For the Church, Catholic families birthing or adopting more children could benefit it in the long run. A Gallup report found that in addition to U.S. membership in houses of worship dropping below 50% for the first time in eight decades, Catholic membership declined by 18 points, from 76% to 58%.

That’s a steeper decline than what Protestants have faced (down nine points from 73% to 64%). Gallup also noted weekly church attendance for Catholics has declined as well, whereas it has remained steady for protestants.

Across the globe, countries are also experiencing what is termed as a “demographic winter,” or falling fertility rates. According to BBC, worldwide fertility rates — which currently sit around 2.4 — are projected to fall below 2.0 by 2050, and to 1.7 by 2100.

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BBC explained that the drop in fertility rates can be credited to more women going to school and working, as well as the greater accessibility of birth control. In May, Francis commented on fertility rates, stressing the need for “a policy, an economy, information and culture that courageously promote birth.”

The Pope has discussed animals several times during his papacy. In 2016, Francis said that a person can’t love their pet more than their neighbor. While some might recall Francis saying that animals — which the Church hasn’t confirmed nor deny have souls — will go to heaven, the quote credited to Francis was actually spoken by Paul VI.

While Francis, who is often seen as much more of a progressive Church leader than those in the past, has neither children nor pets, he was gifted two donkeys by a farming cooperative back in 2014.

Despite Francis’ frequent dismissal of animals, previous Popes have a more affectionate history with creatures. Benedict XVI was well-known for his housing and enduring love of cats, while Pius XII possessed a goldfinch.

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Joe Biden Meets With Pope Francis At Start Of European Tour

Ahead of the G20 summit in Rome, President Joe Biden started off his five-day European trip by having a prestigious meeting with the most influential religious leader in the world – Pope Francis. As ABC News notes, this is the first time in more than half a century a Roman Catholic U.S. leader has met with the Pope.

Due to the role Biden’s personal faith plays in his daily life, the White House said prior that the meeting would be both “personal and formal,” and it showed – there was reportedly a “clear rapport” between the two world leaders.

The White House also provided a readout of the meeting, stating that Biden applauded Francis for his leadership in the fights against climate change and the pandemic, while thanking the Catholic Church head for his advocacy of the world’s less fortunate and “those suffering from hunger, conflict, and persecution.”

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The Associated Press reported that the meeting ran about 75 minutes, which is more than double the time an audience normally spends with the Pontiff. The two also participated in the typical gift exchange. Biden presented the Pope with a 1930 woven chasuble, along with a challenge coin. Meanwhile, Francis gave Biden a ceramic tile depicting pilgrim iconography.

Additionally, a note left for the Pope by Biden says that The White House will donate more clothes to charities on World Day for the Poor – a Catholic observance that occurs on Nov. 14.

As to what their closed-doors meeting consisted of, the White House said the two planned to discuss
“climate change, ending the COVID-19 pandemic, and caring for the poor.” However, the AP reported that the meeting may be overshadowed by criticisms from conservative U.S. bishops over Biden’s LGBTQ and abortion stance – which is pro-choice. The bishops believe that position should disqualify Biden from receiving communion.

Biden — whose wife, Jill, was among his visiting group — said that the Pope did not give him communion during their meeting. When asked about whether Francis and him discussed the bishops, Biden said that was a “private conversation.”

Biden, who’s the second Catholic to ever be a U.S. President (John F. Kennedy being the first), has met with the Pope three other times, with their last visit coming in 2015 during the Pope’s trip to the eastern United States. He is also the 14th President to meet with the Pope at the Vatican.

It appears the Vatican and the U.S. are once again heading towards good terms. During President Donald Trump’s original campaigning in 2016, there was harsh shade thrown on both sides. Francis criticized Trump for his border and immigration policies, calling out his pro-life hypocrisy.

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In response, Trump said it was “disgraceful” for the Pope to question his faith, and called him a pawn of the Mexican government. When Trump and his family visited the Vatican in 2017, the meeting went viral due to Francis’ somber facial expressions during photo ops.

To the disappointment of many, the planned live broadcast of Biden and Frances’ meeting was cancelled. Instead, the only live footage was of Biden’s motorcade arriving in the courtyard of the Apostolic Palace.

White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki spoke on the subject of the limited press access, and expressed the administration’s efforts to get the media more coverage.

“We believe in the value of the free press. We believe in the value of ensuring you have access to the president’s trips and his visits overseas.”

According to a Vatican spokesman, this reflected “normal procedure” that was established during the pandemic. The Vatican said it would provide edited footage of the meeting afterwards to accredited media members.

As Yahoo News explains, the Vatican had previously done live coverage of past meetings with various world leaders, such as Trump, and also had planned coverage for South Korean President Moon Jae-in. The live footage was even more important considering the Vatican no longer allows independent photographers and journalists into the papal audiences due to the pandemic.

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Pope Francis Makes Public Plea To Save The Amazon, And The Planet

Pope Francis has taken combating the climate crisis our planet is currently enduring into his own hands. Last week, on February 12th to be more specific, Francis released a 94-page exhortation document in which he passionately discussed the importance of protecting the Amazon Rainforest, the multitude of ecosystems it supports, and the indigenous people native to the forest who utilize its vast range of natural resources.  

The document is titled Dear Amazon, and comes as a response to the historic Vatican meeting that occurred in the fall of 2019 regarding the destruction of the Amazon during its extreme wildfire outbreaks. It also comes as a response to the massive increase in illegal logging, mining and other deforestation tactics in Peru, Bolivia, Colombia, and Brazil, as well as a surge in murders amongst indigenous activists within the past year alone. 

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“If the care of people and the care of ecosystems are inseparable, this becomes especially important in places where the forest is not a resource to be exploited…When indigenous peoples remain on their land, they themselves care for it best. We are water, air, earth and life of the environment created by God. For this reason, we demand an end to the mistreatment and destruction of mother Earth. The land has blood, and it is bleeding; the multinationals have cut the veins of our mother Earth,” Francis wrote.

As previously mentioned, the exhortation comes partly as a response to a historic meeting at the Vatican in which, for the first time in history, hundreds of Catholic bishops, environmental activists, and indigenous leaders from nine South American countries came together to discuss preservation of the planet and its relationship to faith, and how both political and religious leaders of the world can join forces to protect what little natural land is left. 

The exhortation acts as a public response to an otherwise private three-week meeting period between the groups mentioned above. The “response” was divided into four sections by Francis; societal, cultural, ecclesial, and ecological, all of which were under the general titles of “dreams.” Scientists and conservationists alike have been warning about the catastrophic effects of climate change for decades. Unless true systematic change is implemented throughout the entire world, it’s nearly impossible to reverse the extensive damage that’s already been done.

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The Amazon Rainforest

Within the past year, the Amazon Rainforest has lost over 3,400 square miles of forest, which is roughly the size of seven New York Cities, and this is not the first time Pope Francis has expressed his discontent with our governments lack of conservation efforts. In 2015, the Vatican and Francis released an encyclical entitled Laudato Si, On Care For Our Common Home. An “encyclical,” is a Catholic teaching document that’s regarded as the “highest order possessing moral authority,” due to the fact that it comes from the Pope. 

In Laudato Si, Francis became a self-proclaimed advocate for environmental protection, and spoke out against the government; placing the blame for global warming on human activity, specifically mentioning “rampant consumerism and unbridled capitalism.” Since then, the Vatican has emphasized climate action as “morally imperative” in the same regard that it’s scientifically imperative for the survival of our planet. 

The progressive Pope’s outspoken attitude in regard to climate change has created a major divide amongst those who consider themselves “devoutly” faithful to both their religion and their government. However, most can agree that having a public figure, as major and influential as the Pope, speak out against any issue regarding injustice is major when it comes to reform. 

“Protecting rainforests is fundamentally an ethical issue, where care for creation and the realization of social justice for indigenous peoples and forest communities are part of one moral fabric. We are seeing that not only is the leadership of Pope Francis rallying Catholics to act, but [it is] also inspiring religious leaders from other faiths to protect rainforests around the world,” said Joe Corcoran, the UN project manager for the Interfaith Rainforest Initiative (IRI).

Francis is creating a merger of two different worlds through his outspokenness. We have all the facts when it comes to climate change and the action that’s needed to combat it, now it’s just a matter of direct and immediate change.