Oct. 2 (UPI) — Pope Francis has revealed he is open to Catholic blessings for same-sex couples, as he reaffirmed the Church’s ban on women priests, in answers to critical questions ahead of a major Vatican meeting this week.
The pope’s eight-page reply, released by the Vatican on Monday, shows his responses to five retired conservative Catholic cardinals who have expressed concerns about a number of controversial issues expected to be addressed at the Synod of Bishops, which runs from Oct. 4 to Oct. 29.
While none of the pope’s responses were absolute, he did express an openness to blessing some same-sex unions as long as it is done without the sacrament of marriage.
“The Church has a very clear concept on marriage: An exclusive, stable and indissoluble union between a man and a woman, naturally open to begetting children,” Francis wrote in the letter dated Sept. 25.
“Only this union is called ‘marriage.’ Other forms of union are only realized ‘in a partial and analogous way,’ which is why they cannot strictly be called marriage,'” the pope added.
“Consequently, we cannot become judges who only reject, deny and exclude,” Francis said. “Pastoral prudence must adequately discern whether there are forms of blessing, requested by one or several people, that do not transmit a mistaken concept of marriage.”
The pope also answered questions about the possibility of women priests in the Catholic Church, replying “no” while “definitively” affirming St. Pope John Paul II‘s ban in 1994 of “the impossibility of conferring priestly ordination to women.”
Francis said John Paul “was in no way denigrating women and conferring supreme power on men,” as he offered the possibility of further study.
As Pope Francis faces societal pressure to push boundaries in the church, he argued that culture does not necessarily mean that divine revelation should also be reinterpreted.
“Depends on the meaning you give the word ‘reinterpret.’ If it is understood as ‘interpret better,’ the expression is valid,” Francis wrote.
“Cultural changes and new historical challenges do not modify revelation, but they can stimulate us to make more explicit some aspects of its overflowing wealth that always offers more.”