A key association of German laity is pressuring the country’s bishops to avoid “hardships” and “existential emergencies” for gay couples by approving Church blessings for their partnerships.

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If gay couples seek for their life together the “Church-mediated blessing of God”, that wish should not be denied them, the Central Committee of German Catholics (ZdK) said Saturday in a resolution after a two-day plenary assembly in Bonn.

That resolution formalised the position of the ZdK since at least 2015, when it first backed in principle the idea of blessings for gay couples.

In the motion, the ZdK “encouraged” the German bishops to further investigate possibilities for ceremonies for gay unions, but also for those other couples barred from Church weddings, such as divorced Catholics living in new relationships.

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The call in Germany for Church blessings of gay unions has intensified since August after two bishops – Franz-Josef Bode of Osnabrück and Stefan Hesse of Hamburg – proposed a new way forward of mutual respect between the Church and LGBTQ+ people.

“When homosexual men and lesbian women confess themselves to be believing Christians – in spite of the experiences of rejection – and ask for pastoral care on their path of life, then this is very impressive and challenges us to develop perspectives together”, Bode and Hesse wrote in the preface to a new book on the pastoral care of gay Catholics.

While bishops Bode and Hesse did not explicitly back blessings for gay couples, their positive sentiments in the book have led to a new momentum on the issue in the German Church.

Archbishop Hesse, who is also an adviser to the ZdK, repeated his LGBT-positive sentiments at the ZdK assembly in Bonn.

He called for a deeper theological investigation into how the Church can better accompany gay couples, so that any future blessing rites are properly anchored in the Church’s theology.

Why it matters

In the resolution passed Saturday, the ZdK insisted that the current Church ban on blessing gay couples is outdated, and not worthy of the Catechism’s call to respect homosexuals “with respect, compassion, and sensitivity”.

The ZdK also urged priests and bishops not to focus on the alleged deficiencies of gay Catholic couples, but instead celebrate the love and longing for God inherent in their desire to have the Church recognise their partnership.

That of the ZdK is an extremely important voice in the German Church, not least of all because it is a key partner of the German Bishops’ Conference in the two-year “binding synodal path” reform process slated to begin this Advent.

At its assembly in Bonn, the ZdK also voted in favour of the synodal path statutes approved by the bishops in September, thus removing the final obstacle to the process to begin this December.

Next on Novena:

German priest comes out of the closet, thanks bishop for opening the door

Retired Münster bishop: “Church can bless same-sex partnerships”