Catholic Bishops in Africa Consult “to provide unequivocal clarity” on Fiducia Supplicans

Fridolin Cardinal Ambongo, President of the Symposium of Episcopal Conference of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM). Credit: SECAM

Catholic Bishops in Africa are consulting among themselves in view of issuing a “single synodal pronouncement” on Fiducia Supplicans, the Vatican declaration on the possibility of blessing “same-sex couples” and couples in other “irregular situations”. 

In a statement circulated Thursday, December 21, the President of the Symposium of Episcopal Conference of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM) reaches out to his brother Bishops for opinion on the document that the Dicastery for the Doctrine of Faith (DDF) released on Monday, December 18 in view of giving “definitive guidance” to the people of God on the world’s second-largest and second-most populous continent.

“The nuanced nature of this declaration, open to various interpretations and potential manipulations, has led to considerable uncertainty among the faithful,” Fridolin Cardinal Ambongo says, hinting to the deep division among Catholic Bishops around the globe over the Vatican Declaration permitting nonliturgical blessings of same-sex couples.

In the one-page statement dated December 20 and addressed to Presidents of Catholic Bishops’ Conferences of Africa and its Islands, Cardinal Ambongo adds, “As shepherds of the Church in Africa, it is incumbent upon us to provide unequivocal clarity on this matter, offering definitive guidance to our Christian community.”

“I am writing to you, dear Presidents, to ask for your opinion on the above-mentioned Declaration of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, so that we can draw up a single synodal pronouncement, valid for the whole Church in Africa,” the President of SECAM says, citing Chapter 19#d of the Synod on Synodality Synthesis Report that was released on October 28 under the title, “a Synodal Church in Mission”.


The Archbishop of Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) explains that the purpose of seeking “perspectives from all Episcopal Conferences” of Africa and its Islands is for SECAM to “be suitably positioned to release a pastoral declaration regarding” the possibility of blessing “same-sex couples” and couples in other “irregular situations” on the continent. 

A pastoral declaration from SECAM, the Congolese member of Friars Minor Capuchin (O.F.M Cap) says, would “provide comprehensive guidelines for all local Churches within our continent.”

Cardinal Ambongo, who has been at the helm of SECAM since February gives Presidents of Catholic Bishops’ Conferences across Africa and its Islands up to “the start of the second half of January” to submit their perspectives to the General Secretariat of the Accra-Ghana-based Symposium, and adds, “Your timely response will be instrumental in shaping this important directive.”

“May the FIAT of Mary, who merited the gift of salvation for the whole world, teach us to welcome the Word of God, the Word made Flesh, so that we too can bring salvation to the people of our time,” he concludes.

A section of Catholic Bishops in Africa, including those in Malawi and in Zambia, have prohibited the implementation of Fiducia Supplicans in their respective countries.

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“We direct that for pastoral reasons, blessings of any kind and for same sex unions of any kind, are not permitted in Malawi,” members of the Episcopal Conference of Malawi (ECM) said in their December 19 statement.

In a December 20 statement, members of the Zambia Conference of Catholic Bishops (ZCCB) said that the guidelines in Fiducia Supplicans are “for further reflection and not for implementation in Zambia.”

Their decision, ZCCB members said, is informed by the need “to avoid any pastoral confusion and ambiguity as well as not to break the law of our country which forbids same-sex unions and activities, and while listening to our cultural heritage which does not accept same-sex relationships.”

In Nigeria the Catholic Bishops have welcomed Fiducia Supplicans and offered clarifications and cautions against what they consider misinterpretations.

“There is no possibility in the Church of blessing same-sex unions and activities,” members of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) say in their December 20 statement, and add that permitting such blessings “would go against God's law, the teachings of the Church, the laws of our nation and the cultural sensibilities of our people.”


Members of the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops (KCCB) have defended Fiducia Supplicans, saying it “does not in any way approve of ‘Same-sex Marriages’ nor try to give a back-door recognition of such a union. It does not seek an alternative ‘union blessing’ to substitute a Sacramental marriage.”

“This Document does not change in any way the understanding of Marriage as a Sacrament in the Church, an indissoluble union between a man and a woman, for life,” Catholic Bishops in Kenya have said in their December 20 statement.

In Burkina Faso and Nigeria, Catholic Bishops have cautioned against “anxiety”.

“We, your Bishops and Fathers of the Church Family of God in Burkina Faso and Niger, do not want to leave you in a state of embarrassment, incomprehension and anxiety, and so we urge you to remain calm and firm in the faith,” members of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Burkina Faso and Niger (CEBN) say.

In their December 20 statement, CEBN members state, “Catholic doctrine on marriage does not change, and the Church does not approve of irregular or same-sex unions.”

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Globally, Fiducia Supplicans has elicited mixed reactions, with some Catholic Bishops voicing support, and others expressing opposition. Some other Catholic Church leaders have adopted a middle approach; they welcome the Vatican declaration's reaffirmation of Church teaching on marriage between one man and one woman but caution the Clergy to avoid giving any impression of condoning homosexual behavior and celebrating a so-called “gay wedding”.

In Germany, where the Conference of Catholic Bishops has welcomed Fiducia Supplicans and an influential Lay Catholic group moved forward with proposals for formalized blessings of same-sex couples, Gerhard Cardinal Müller has firmly dismissed the latest Vatican’s DDF document. 

In his response to Fiducia Supplicans published on December 21, the Cardinal who served as DDF Prefect from 2012-2017 says that any Clergy blessing same-sex couples commits a “sacrilegious and blasphemous act against the Creator’s plan and against Christ’s death for us.”

“Blessing a reality that is contrary to creation is not only impossible, it is blasphemy,” Cardinal Müller says, adding, “God cannot send his grace upon a relationship that is directly opposed to him and cannot be ordered toward him … if this blessing were given, its only effect would be to confuse the people who receive it or who attend it.”

He makes reference to the current DDF Prefect saying, “It is true that Cardinal Fernandez, in later statements to Infovaticana, said that it is not the union that is blessed, but the couple. However, this is emptying a word of its meaning, since what defines a couple as couple is precisely their being a union.”

“According to the criterion of this type of blessings,” Cardinal Müller says, “one could even bless an abortion clinic or a Mafia group.”

In his considered opinion, permitting the blessing of same-sex couples directly contradicts earlier guidance that DDF published in 2021, is entirely unprecedented, and not based on any Church doctrine, biblical teaching, or any writings by Church Fathers or doctors of the Church.

Fr. Don Bosco Onyalla is ACI Africa’s founding Editor-in-Chief. He was formed in the Congregation of the Holy Ghost Fathers (Spiritans), and later incardinated in Rumbek Diocese, South Sudan. He has a PhD in Media Studies from Daystar University in Kenya, and a Master’s degree in Organizational Communication from Marist College, New York, USA.