On Monday, December 18, 2023, the Vatican’s Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith issued the Declaration, “Fiducia Supplicans” (“Supplicating Trust”) which was approved by Pope Francis.

In response to the Declaration’s release, the Most Reverend Joseph C. Bambera, Bishop of Scranton, issued the following statement:

“With the approval of Pope Francis, the Dicastery of the Doctrine of the Faith issued the Declaration, Fiducia Supplicans, on Monday, December 18, 2023. The Declaration clarifies that there are forms of blessings within the Church and recounted throughout the Sacred Scriptures, which are ‘poured out on others as a gesture of grace, protection, and goodness’ (18).

“The Diocese of Scranton is guided by the teachings of the Holy Father, and I invite all people of good will to join me in reading, praying, and reflecting upon the new Declaration, which carefully distinguishes between liturgical (sacramental) blessings and pastoral blessings, which may be spontaneous or personal.

“As evangelizers, we desire to bring the love and Good News of Jesus to every person, yet we know many people struggle to encounter God in their lives for one reason or another. Blessings, therefore, offer all people ‘an invitation to draw ever closer to the love of Christ.’ (44)

“The Declaration is very clear that the Church’s teaching on marriage has not changed – clearly upholding the sacrament of marriage as between a man and a woman – and is also specific regarding the possibility and context of blessings for couples in irregular situations and for couples of the same sex.

“As the Declaration states, ‘this blessing should never be imparted in concurrence with the ceremonies of a civil union, and not even in connection with them. Nor can it be performed with any clothing, gestures, or words that are proper to a wedding,’ adding, ‘such a blessing may instead find its place in other contexts, such as a visit to a shrine, a meeting with a priest, a prayer recited in a group, or during a pilgrimage’ (39-40).

“The pastoral sensitivity being shown by Pope Francis in this new Declaration is evident and most understandable as it states, ‘when people ask for a blessing, an exhaustive moral analysis should not be placed as a precondition for conferring it. For those seeking a blessing should not be required to have prior moral perfection’ (25). To the contrary, the Declaration is intended ‘as a tribute to the faithful People of God, who worship the Lord with so many gestures of deep trust in his mercy and who, with this confidence, constantly come to seek a blessing from Mother Church.’

“May this Declaration enable all of us who seek to walk by faith to feel the closeness and compassion of God.”