We’ve No “rites for such things”: Bishop in Ghana on Blessing of Same-Sex Marriages

The President of the Ghana Catholic Bishops Conference (GCBC), Bishop Matthew Kwasi Gyamfi. Credit: Catholic Trends

The President of the Ghana Catholic Bishops Conference (GCBC) has clarified that the blessing of same-sex marriages is not permissible in the West African country, noting that the Church does not even have the rites and prayers for such arrangements.

In an effort to provide clarity on the Vatican declaration on the blessing of “same-sex couples” at a panel discussion that Catholic Trends organized, Bishop Matthew Kwasi Gyamfi of Ghana's Catholic Diocese of Sunyani distinguished between the blessing of marriage as an institution and the blessing given to an individual who randomly requests for it.

He said that a section of Catholics had misinterpreted the Vatican declaration, Fiducia Supplicans, which the Dicastery for the Doctrine of Faith (DDF) issued Monday, December 18.

“It seems that many people do not understand the difference between blessing different things and different people, and the special prayers we have for blessing institutions,” Bishop Kwasi said.

“We do not bless same-sex marriages. If they come to you saying ‘Look, I am a woman and this is my husband who is a woman’, then the Church does not allow the Priest to bless such an arrangement. We don't even have the prayers and rites for such things,” the GCBC President said.


He added, “The Pope is not saying that we can bless same-sex marriages. The Church law ignores and abhors such acts.”

Titled “Blessing of Same-Sex Couples, People in Irregular Situations: Why the fuss?”, the Tuesday, December 19 panel discussion sought “to create more clarity” on the Vatican declaration on the blessing of “same-sex couples” and couples in other “irregular situations”.

In his address at the panel discussion, Bishop Kwasi compared the difference between blessing a marriage as an institution and what is referred to in the Fiducia Supplicans to “day and night.”

There is a very sharp distinction, a distinction that is as clear as day and night between blessing marriage as an institution and blessing an individual,” he said.

“We have different prayers and different rites for different things,” the President of the Catholic Bishops in Ghana further said.

More in Africa

He continued, “When we talk of blessing as the Pope is talking about, we can bless anybody and everybody who asks for it. But for somebody to have their marriage blessed, there are special prayers and special rites that we go through. People therefore need to make a distinction between the blessings that we normally give to everybody and the blessings of institutions.”

Bishop Kwasi noted that in the Catholic Church, not everyone is allowed to receive the highest form of blessing, which is the Eucharist, and added, “After Mass, however, anyone can come and ask the Priest to bless them. Some may even ask for Mass to be celebrated for them. They request for such blessings to help them change their predisposition.”

“When same-sex couples come to the priest asking for his blessings, the Priest is not blessing their marriage,” the Catholic Bishop who has been at the helm of Sunyani Diocese since his Episcopal Consecration in June 2003 said.

Asked why he thought Pope Francis had chosen to single out same-sex couples and make a declaration about them, the Ghanaian Bishop made reference to the topical issue around Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer (LGBTQ) persons.

“LGBTQ people have been on the forefront, with people asking many questions about them. It is only when the Pope receives such questions that he clarifies the matter through a pronouncement such as the declaration he made,” Bishop Kwasi said.


Other panelists at the December 19 webinar said that they had received news about the Vatican declaration with mixed reactions.

Fransica Ziniel, Coordinator of the Catholic Youth Network for Environmental Sustainability in Africa (CYNESA) in Ghana, said that the declaration was expected.

“This was not news to me,” Fransisca said, and explained, “Looking at the various pronouncements that the Pope had made concerning the matter, I knew that something like this was bound to happen, sooner or later. Only, I didn't know that it was going to be this soon.”

The document, however, came as a surprise for the young Ghanaian who delved into studying its contents.

She said that her efforts to explain the document’s contents to irate Catholics in the West African country were futile.

(Story continues below)

“Most of our Catholic brothers and sisters were not interested in reading any document. They had already made their conclusions based on the internet headlines. They had already started importing their own facts and truths about the matter,” the CYNESA official said.

Peter Owusu Ansah, a Lay Minister in Ghana, urged Catholics in the West African country to be more proactive in responding to issues about the Church that appear to be controversial.

Expressing his fears about the declining Catholic population in Ghana, Ansah said, “We already know that our numbers are declining, and it doesn't help that many of our people are not very deep when it comes to the faith. They shouldn't be hearing some of these things.”

Catholic Bishops in Ghana have been explicitly opposed to LGBTQ+. In their statement on December 11, the GCBC members clarified their stance on homosexuality, and expressed their support for the Promotion of Proper Human Sexual Rights and Ghanaian Family Values Bill that seeks to criminalize LGBTQ+.

The Catholic Bishops noted that homosexual acts are “intrinsically disordered and are in no case to be approved of.”

“Thus, while the church does not condemn homosexuals for being homosexuals, it condemns the homosexual acts that they perform,” they said.

Their statement followed the November 27 BBC interview with Peter Kodwo Appiah Cardinal Turkson on Hard Talk program that provoked controversy.

In the interview, Cardinal Turkson said that his position has been “that LGBT, gay people may not be criminalized because they have committed no crime”.

Agnes Aineah is a Kenyan journalist with a background in digital and newspaper reporting. She holds a Master of Arts in Digital Journalism from the Aga Khan University, Graduate School of Media and Communications and a Bachelor's Degree in Linguistics, Media and Communications from Kenya's Moi University. Agnes currently serves as a journalist for ACI Africa.