An Austrian priest has celebrated a “liturgy of thanksgiving” for two lesbians in a civil marriage who are both “believing Christians”.

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A spokesman for the diocese of Graz-Seckau confirmed November 11 that a series of photos on social media of the two women in wedding clothes came from a service conducted by Father Michael Kopp in St. Margaret’s church in Wolfsburg.

“The basic question is if homosexual people can feel themselves at home in the Church”, Thomas Stanzer told on Monday. 

“Family spiritual advisor Michael Kopp answered ‘yes’ to this question”, the spokesman explained.

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Stanzer was careful to point out that the service for the two women’s union was “not a sacramental liturgy”, due to the current Church ban on same-sex marriage.

But the spokesman did say that Kopp “celebrated a liturgy of thanksgiving with two civilly-married women who are both believing Christians and who had both found their way out of personal crises with the help of the Catholic Church”.

Stanzer quoted as support for the service Pope Francis’ 2016 apostolic exhortation on love in the family, Amoris laetitia.

“Every person, regardless of sexual orientation, ought to be respected in his or her dignity and treated with consideration, while ‘every sign of unjust discrimination’ is to be carefully avoided, the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Amoris laetitia (250) states”, the spokesman affirmed.

“At the same time it is stated there that the partnership-like connection of two homosexuals cannot be equalled with marriage (251). Both of these things Michael Kopp has followed”.

Why it matters

Photos of the thanksgiving liturgy for the two women were published to a Polish social media account before finding their way to ultraconservative Catholic websites, which quickly protested over the images’ similarity to wedding photos.

One photo features the two women lighting a candle together before the altar, while another one shows priest Kopp with his hand raised over the couple in a blessing.

Other images feature details such as flower girls, family members and chairs with ribbons for the couple at the front of the church, as well as the two women holding hands, exhchanging rings, embracing, and processing in and out of the service.

Suspicions aside, however, it is easy to believe the diocese’s account of the service, and to see in the women’s big smiles the relief that would come with finding a “way out of personal crises” with the Church’s help.

For the record

Kopp, the pastor of St. Margaret’s in Wolfsburg, is well-known in Austria for the two cabaret acts he has written since being ordained in 1997.

Before he came to the diocese of Graz-Seckau in January this year, Kopp was a “family pastor” in the diocese of Gurk.

Earlier this year, Kopp said that family is “the root of every personal life existence”.

The priest added that the concept of family embraces “every form of relationship among people in the most diverse constellations of common life”.

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