Pope Formally Allows Priests to Bless Same-sex Couples. (PBS.Org)

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ROME (AP) — Pope Francis has formally approved allowing priests to bless same-sex couples, with a new document explaining a radical change in Vatican policy by insisting that people seeking God’s love and mercy shouldn’t be subject to “an exhaustive moral analysis” to receive it.

The document from the Vatican’s doctrine office, released Monday, elaborates on a letter Francis sent to two conservative cardinals that was published in October. In that preliminary response, Francis suggested such blessings could be offered under some circumstances if they didn’t confuse the ritual with the sacrament of marriage.

The new document repeats that rationale and elaborates on it, reaffirming that marriage is a lifelong sacrament between a man and a woman. And it stresses that blessings should not be conferred at the same time as a civil union or even with the clothing and gestures that belong in a wedding.

But it says requests for such blessings should not be denied full stop. It offers an extensive definition of the term “blessing” in Scripture to insist that people seeking a transcendent relationship with God and looking for his love and mercy should not be subject to “an exhaustive moral analysis” as a precondition for receiving it.

“Ultimately, a blessing offers people a means to increase their trust in God,” the document said. “The request for a blessing, thus, expresses and nurtures openness to the transcendence, mercy, and closeness to God in a thousand concrete circumstances of life, which is no small thing in the world in which we live.”

He added: “It is a seed of the Holy Spirit that must be nurtured, not hindered.”

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