Flemish Roman Catholic bishops on Tuesday issued a document effectively allowing the blessing of same-sex unions, seemingly in direct defiance of a ruling against such practices by the Vatican's doctrinal office last year.
The document published on the website of the Belgian bishop's conference suggested a ritual that included a prayer and a benediction for stable same-sex unions while stressing that it is not "what the Church understands by a sacramental marriage."
It said the Church wanted to be "pastorally close to homosexual persons" and be a "welcoming Church that excludes no one."
It suggested a ritual that would start with prayers and include a commitment by the two people in front of family and friends to be faithful to each other. The ritual would end with more prayer and what the document called a "benediction."
There was no immediate comment from the Vatican.
The Vatican ruled in March 2021 blessing same-sex union is not allowed
In March 2021, in response to formal questions from a number of Roman Catholic dioceses on whether the practice of blessing same-sex unions was allowed, the Vatican's doctrinal office, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), ruled that it was not.
At the time, the CDF said that its ruling was "not intended to be a form of unjust discrimination, but rather a reminder of the truth of the liturgical rite" of the sacrament of marriage and the blessing associated with it.