By Walter Sanchez Silva
Cardinal Fridolin Ambongo Besengu, OFM Cap, president of the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM), recently recounted step by step how the rejection of the blessing of homosexual couples was handled on the African continent and at the Vatican. In a recording of an interview posted on the French lay Catholic blog Le Salon Beige, the cardinal explained what happened in Africa after the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith (DDF), headed by Argentine Cardinal Víctor Manuel Fernández, published the declaration Fiducia Supplicans, which allows the blessing of same-sex couples and couples in irregular situations.
Reactions in Africa
“When on Dec. 18, we received the document Fiducia Supplicans, signed by the prefect of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith and co-signed by His Holiness Pope Francis, it caused a shockwave in Africa. We didn’t understand what was happening at the Church level. Furthermore, other churches that called us said: ‘We count on the Catholic Church to oppose this ideology. Now, you are the first to authorize the blessing of homosexual couples.’” “All of you, all of you, have suffered for this. A lot. Everyone has suffered for this,” the cardinal lamented. “
The reactions began. And with all responsibility, I wrote to all the episcopal conferences of Africa and Madagascar,” continued Ambongo, who is also the archbishop of Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of Congo. “The episcopal conferences wrote. I printed all the reactions from all the episcopal conferences. I made a synthesis in a document,” he said. Ambongo said he then wrote a seven-page letter to Pope Francis not only as president of SECAM but also as “his adviser, member of the council of the nine cardinals who accompany the pope for the reform of the Church.”
He then traveled to Rome to meet with the pontiff, telling one of his private secretaries why he came and giving him all the documentation he had gathered: the reactions of the episcopal conferences, the synthesis, and his personal letter. That same day the Holy Father received him: “The pope was very sad,” Ambongo said. “I must say that he was the first to suffer from all the reactions that came from all over the world. He suffers for it because he is a human being.
This doesn’t make him happy.” “I reached an agreement with him because I told him that the solution to this issue is no longer to send us documents with theological or philosophical definitions of blessings. The people are not interested in that. What is of interest now is a communication that reassures the people in Africa, that calms the spirits of the faithful. And he, as a pastor, was touched by this situation,” the African cardinal continued.
Working with Fernández
The Holy Father put Ambongo in contact with Fernández, who agreed to work with him the next day at the DDF, “the most important dicastery from the point of view of the Catholic faith.” “With the prefect, myself in front of the computer, a secretary writing, we prepared a document,” Ambongo said. “And we prepared the document in dialogue and agreement with Pope Francis, so that at every moment we called him to ask him questions, to see if he agreed with that formulation, etc.” When completed, Ambongo said, “I signed the document as president of SECAM on behalf of the entire Catholic Church in Africa. And the prefect of the dicastery signed it, not the document that was made public, but the document that we keep in the archives.
The document is titled ‘No to the blessing of homosexual couples in the Catholic Churches.’” The cardinal clarified that, although the text appears to have been signed in Accra, Ghana, the headquarters of SECAM, in reality, he said, “I signed it in Rome.” “This is to express our position today in Africa and we do it in a spirit of communion, of synodality with Pope Francis, and with the prefect of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith: In Africa there is no place to bless homosexual couples. Not at all,” he stressed. On Jan. 11, SECAM published a five-page statement stating: “The Episcopal Conferences of all Africa, which have strongly reaffirmed their communion with Pope Francis, believe that the extra-liturgical blessings proposed in the declaration Fiducia Supplicans cannot be carried out in Africa without exposing themselves to scandals.”
Ambongo also stressed that, although Africa opposes the blessing of same-sex couples, it is necessary to “respect homosexual people because they are human beings. We should not look at them, treat them with contempt. They are creatures of God. And as creatures of God, if an individual homosexual asks for a blessing, we bless the person. We can bless him as a person.” After noting that criminals can also be blessed, the cardinal pointed out that these blessings for individual persons are given “in the hope that the grace of the blessing can help them convert. And if we bless a homosexual, it is also to say that ‘your sexual orientation is not in accordance with the will of God and we hope that the blessing can help you change because homosexuality is condemned in the Bible and by the magisterium of the Church.’” “We cannot be promoters of sexual deviation.
Let them do it in their homes, but not in ours,” he said. Marriage, family in Africa vs. the West Ambongo also lamented that currently in “the West, since they don’t like children, they want to attack the basic cell of humanity, which is the family. If you destroy the family, you destroy society.” The cardinal lamented that now in the West the meaning of marriage has also been lost and culture “is in decline,” something that also affects the economy. “Little by little, they are going to disappear. They will disappear. We wish them a good demise,” he continued.
The cardinal also denounced the action of international organizations such as the U.N., UNICEF, and the World Health Organization, among others, which condition their financing on the promotion of gender ideology, which does not recognize the natural sexual difference between men and women. “However, our culture in Africa is not like that. Yes, we have many defects, but we cannot be reproached for homosexuality. You can find isolated cases, like those in Uganda,” he said, but “society doesn’t work that way. That practice does not exist among us.”
• This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.
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