Archbishop of Berlin permits blessings of homosexual couples

Archbishop Koch: Blessing of homosexual couples possible in archdiocese.  He will not take any disciplinary action

Archbishop Heiner Koch leaves it up to the pastors of his archdiocese to bless homosexual couples. However, he himself will only do so after a certain point in time, the Berlin head pastor emphasises.

Welcoming homosexual and trans refugees

In the Archdiocese of Berlin, blessings of homosexual couples are possible. Archbishop Heiner Koch leaves it up to his full-time chaplains to do so. He will not take disciplinary action against them if they bless such couples in special personal situations for pastoral reasons, according to a letter Koch sent to the chaplains of the Archdiocese published on Friday. As archbishop, he himself would only bless homosexual couples when the Vatican officially permitted such a blessing for the Catholic Church.

According to Koch, a blessing should be preceded by a discussion with the couple to "form and decide on their conscience". The regulation also applies to remarried divorcees who want to have their relationship blessed. Up to now, this has not been officially possible either.

Reaction to Synodal Path

Koch's letter was a reaction to a resolution of the Synodal Path on the Future of the Church in Germany. The majority of participants had voted in favour of the possibility of blessing ceremonies for homosexual couples; Koch also voted yes in the vote in March. However, the synod paper has no legal binding force of its own. It is up to each local bishop to implement it.

According to the letter, the paper has triggered controversies and discussions in the archdiocese, which were "partly conducted with great harshness and strong emotions". Koch writes: "I expect that the decision of pastors for or against a blessing will be respected." This also includes, he said, "not using such blessings either medially or politically". The Archbishop stressed that his instructions for action were "a pastoral, not an administrative or legal path". He appeals to all pastors to weigh this question in a differentiated way and to decide responsibly.

In July, the case of a priest who had been reprimanded by Archbishop Rainer Maria Woelki of Cologne after holding a "blessing service for all loving couples" made headlines across Germany.