December 2, 2023

Pope Francis opens historic synod

Catholic Church discusses role of women, LGBTQ+ rights


Rome — Pope Francis opened a big meeting Wednesday on the future of the Catholic Church, where contentious topics will be discussed. The three-week General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops at the Vatican, sometimes called the Super Bowl of the Catholic Church, has drawn bishops from around the world to discuss hot button issues including whether priests should be allowed to get married, if divorced and remarried Catholics should receive communion, whether women should be allowed to become deacons and how the church will handle matters around the LGBTQ community.

Even before it kicked off this year’s synod was already historic: It’s the first time that women and laypeople are being allowed to vote — though 80% of participants are still bishops, and thus men. But the biggest bombshell dropped earlier this week, when Francis opened the door for the possibility of Catholic priests blessing same-sex unions.

His remarks, published Monday, came with caveats: Francis stressed that blessings shouldn’t be seen as elevating same-sex unions to the sacred place of heterosexual marriage, but until now, the church’s position had been that same-sex unions could not be blessed, because “God cannot bless sin.”

The XVI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops Is Held At Vatican
Pope Francis presides at Holy Mass with the new Cardinals and the College of Cardinals for the opening of the General Ordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops at St. Peter’s Square, Oct. 4, 2023, in Vatican City.

Antonio Masiello/Getty

In his statements — issued in reply to cardinals who had requested clarity on the church’s position on the matter — Francis said, “we cannot be judges who only deny, reject, and exclude.”

LGBTQ organizations welcomed the change in tone, while church conservatives blasted Francis for appearing to dilute Catholic doctrine and sow confusion. 

All this, and the synod has only just begun.

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