How Kenya’s Catholics Faced Backlash following Fiducia Supplicans, Declaration Permitting Blessing of “same-sex couples”

Archbishop Philip Subira Anyolo of the country’s Catholic Archdiocese of Nairobi (ADN) (center), Archbishop Maurice Muhatia Makumba of Kenya’s Catholic Archdiocese of Kisumu (right) and Bishop Cleophas Oseso Tuka of the Catholic Diocese of Nakuru (left) interviewed by EWTN’s Colm Flyn. Credit: EWTN News In Depth

When the Vatican Dicastery for the Doctrine of Faith (DDF) issued Fiducia Supplicans, the declaration permitting the blessing of “same-sex couples” and couples in other “irregular situations”, Catholic Church leaders in Africa expressed their sharp opposition to the move.

Catholic Bishops in Africa under the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM) consulted member Conferences across the continent and issued a statement saying there would be no blessing for homosexual couples in the African churches.

In Kenya, however, the biggest criticism of the Vatican DDF declaration came from non-Catholics, who said that the Catholic Church had lost its way, according to Archbishop Philip Subira Anyolo of the country’s Catholic Archdiocese of Nairobi (ADN).

“Other Churches were talking even more than Catholics. They wondered where the Catholic Church was headed,” Archbishop Anyolo told EWTN’s Colm Flyn, who asked him how the December 18 DDF declaration had been received in Kenya.

Archbishop Philip Subira Anyolo of the country’s Catholic Archdiocese of Nairobi (ADN) interviewed by EWTN’s Colm Flyn. Credit: EWTN News


In the interview that EWTN News In Depth published June 26, the Kenyan Catholic Archbishop shared his initial reaction to the declaration that the Prefect of the DDF, Víctor Manuel Cardinal Fernández, had released, which Pope Francis endorsed.

“My reaction was to listen to what the Holy Father said,” he said, recalling how he received the news of the Vatican declaration on the pastoral blessing of same-sex couples. 

He continued, “Of course we have to obey the Holy Father. Africa will never disobey the Pope. But the reaction was not even from the Bishops or Priests. It was from the people. People said ‘we are dead; we are finished.’”

Credit: EWTN News

Archbishop Anyolo expressed concern that as “unbecoming” as it is, homosexuality is becoming a reality in Africa. “What I know, and it is very obvious, homosexuality is coming here,” the Local Ordinary of Nairobi since November 2021 said.

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On whether it is possible that the church in Kenya and in Africa will have to become more tolerant of same-sex unions, he told Flyn, “When it comes to such unbecoming behaviour, the culture is usually very strong.”

The very week Fiducia Supplicans was released, Archbishop Anyolo issued a statement in which he stated, “All Clergy residing and ministering in the Archdiocese of Nairobi are prohibited from blessing irregular relationships, unions, or same-sex couples.”

Credit: EWTN News

He said that the directive was meant to “make sure the fundamental doctrinal positions affirmed in the (Vatican) Declaration, and the perennial teachings of the Church on marriage (are) upheld.”

“Any form of blessing of same-sex unions and activities would go against God’s word, the teachings of the Church, the African cultural traditions, the laws of our nations, and would be scandalous to the faithful,” the Local Ordinary of Nairobi explained in his two-page eight-point statement dated December 23, some five days after the release of Fiducia Supplicans.


He stated that his understanding of the concept of “blessing” is “approval, permission, or even a commission for a certain type of action and mission.”

Imparting blessings upon a same-sex couple and couples in “irregular situations of marriage” is therefore understood as “permission to sin” and a way of “normalizing” the lifestyle of practicing homosexuality, Archbishop Anyolo said. 

Credit: EWTN News

For him, “The notion of blessing same-sex couples, or irregular unions, can be perceived as legalizing these relationships, which the Church has no authority to do in faithfulness to the Gospel and the institution of marriage.”

“In the light of God’s mercy, the Church imparts her blessing to individual persons struggling with sin and strive to do the will of God, determined to conform their lives to Church’s teaching. This is done primarily in the sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation,” Archbishop Anyolo stated, adding, “Such blessings are not only allowed but strongly encouraged.”

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In his interview with Archbishop Maurice Muhatia Makumba of Kenya’s Catholic Archdiocese of Kisumu Colm Flyn sought to know the Archbishop’s reaction to Fiducia Supplicans. 

Archbishop Maurice Muhatia Makumba of Kenya’s Catholic Archdiocese of Kisumu interviewed by EWTN's Colm Flyn. Credit: EWTN News

“My reaction was to intensify the catechesis on marriage,” Archbishop Muhatia said. 

Asked weather he would allow the Clergy in his Metropolitan See to impart blessings upon persons in same-sex unions seeking them, the Kenyan Catholic Archbishop said that homosexual behaviour “is repugnant to the people” and that those in same-sex unions “would not” seek blessings from the Clergy.

In 2023 the Kenyan government proposed the Family Protection Act, seeking to strengthen traditional family values by defining the family strictly as a union between a man and a woman. 

Credit: EWTN News

The Act explicitly prohibits same-sex marriages and relationships. It criminalizes homosexual acts, imposing penalties including life imprisonment and even the death penalty for what it terms aggravated cases.

Asked to weigh in on the Act, Archbishop Muhatia said the Church would never support criminalization of “people's behavior.”

Credit: EWTN News

“We will protect the values of society and the values of the church in the teaching on marriage. But I don't think we would go for criminalization of people because they behave this way or that way. That can be counterproductive,” the Local Ordinary of Kisumu told Colm Flyn in the interview that was published June 26.

Also speaking to Colm Flyn, Bishop Cleophas Oseso Tuka of the Catholic Diocese of Nakuru in Kenya warned that homosexuality is being imposed on Kenyans, with people now being forced to recognize the same-sex unions as normal.

Bishop Cleophas Oseso Tuka of the Catholic Diocese of Nakuru interviewed by EWTN's Colm Flyn. Credit: EWTN News

“There are those saying, yes, we belong to the gay community. But there are instances where they want to bring it with a bit of force and want to impose it onto everyone else, that you have to accept this as a way of living today even when in most of our communities it is an abomination,” Bishop Oseso said.

For the Kenyan Catholic Bishop, homosexuality is “still a very hot issue” that he says needs to be discussed with a lot of care “so that we don't lose our identity as Church. Otherwise, we are just going to be like any other NGO, and not be a Church.”

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.