KINSHASA, Africa (LifeSiteNews) — Cardinal Fridolin Ambongo, president of the episcopal conferences for Africa and Madagascar, has revealed striking details of how he worked with Pope Francis and Cardinal Fernández to compose his document stating that African bishops would not offer blessings for homosexual couples.
In a recent talk, a portion of which was published January 18 by La Salon Beige, Cardinal Ambongo recounted the circumstances which led to his January 11 letter outlining how African bishops would not be offering the blessings of homosexual couples proposed by Fiducia Supplicans.
“In Africa, there is no place to bless gay couples,” he said, to much applause from the crowd.
Ambongo’s January 11 letter presented the continental rejection of the Congregation (now Dicastery) for the Doctrine of the Faith’s December 18 text Fiducia Supplicans, which was written by prefect Cardinal Victor Fernández, and which proposed blessings for same-sex couples.
Ambongo’s January 11 statement came as one of the most impactful instances of resistance the already much beleaguered Fiducia Supplicans had received, given that the entire continent was now rejecting the Vatican’s text.
In his lecture, Ambongo revealed that, having collated the responses to Fiducia Supplicans which he had requested from African bishops, he flew swiftly to Rome.
Santa Marta meetings
The cardinal – one of Pope Francis’ “C9” cardinal advisors – arrived in Rome in the early hours of January 9, and went to stay at Casa Santa Marta, the Vatican-based hotel where Francis resides.
Informing the Pope’s secretary of his presence, Ambongo was granted an audience that same evening. The cardinal revealed that he then reached an “agreement” with Francis about the African rejection of Fiducia Supplicans, saying that “the solution to this problem is no longer to send us documents with theological and philosophical definitions of blessings.”
“People are not interested in that,” Ambongo said he told Francis, and added that he continued by saying “what matters now is a communication that reassures the people in Africa, calms the minds of the faithful.”
According to Ambongo, Francis was upset by the rejections of Fiducia Supplicans, and that he was “affected” by the situation Ambongo relayed to him regarding Africa’s bishops’ stance.
Francis reportedly arranged a meeting that same evening between Ambongo and Cardinal Fernández, and a further meeting was arranged for the next day.
Consequently, on January 10, Ambongo sat down with Fernández and a secretary to draft the letter which was subsequently published on January 11. According to Ambongo, the process was conducted in such close collaboration with Francis that they regularly called the Pope as they wrote the letter to obtain his approval of the wording.
The resulting document has already been described by LifeSiteNews here. Ambongo stated that a private version was made for the Vatican archives, which was co-signed by Fernández – although the public version was signed by Ambongo only.
Expanding on his stance opposing the implementation of blessings homosexual couples, Ambongo told his loudly supportive audience that “in Africa, there is no place to bless gay couples.”
He affirmed that “we must respect homosexual people because they are human beings. We should not look at them, treat them with contempt. They are creatures of God.”
Ambongo also outlined that a blessing for an individual would not be problematic, noting that individuals of various backgrounds and states of lives – he cited criminals – ask for blessings:
If individually a homosexual asks for a blessing, we bless the person. We can bless you as a person… But why do we bless them? Hoping that the grace of blessing can help you convert.
Such a blessing over an individual “homosexual” would be “to tell him that his sexual orientation is not in accordance with the will of God, and we hope the blessing can help you change,” said Ambongo.
He added that this desire for a “change” in the person’s life is “because homosexuality is condemned in the Bible and by the magisterium of the Church. We cannot be promoters of sexual deviation.”
Cdl. Fernández’s U-turn days after sending warning shot to bishops
In his January 11 letter, Ambongo cited the Scriptural teaching of the Church condemning homosexuality, but posited his rejection of blessings for homosexual couples as more directly due to being incongruous with African culture.
The letter declared that: “we, the African bishops, do not consider it appropriate for Africa to bless homosexual unions or same-sex couples because, in our context, this would cause confusion and would be in direct contradiction to the cultural ethos of African communities.”
Ambongo further noted that African culture is “deeply rooted in the values of the natural law regarding marriage and family,” and same-sex unions “are seen as contrary to cultural norms and intrinsically corrupt.”
Since issuing that text, however, dissent has arisen in the continent, with the conference of the north region of African (CERNA) expressing their openness to blessings same-sex couples.
A January 15 statement from CERNA’s president, Cardinal Cristóbal López Romero, read that “[w]hen people in an irregular situation come together to ask for a blessing, we can give it provided that it does not cause confusion for the interested parties themselves or for others.”
Romero’s northern region is far less populated with African Catholics than other parts of the continent, while Ambongo’s own see of Kinshasa is one of the largest in Africa. Kinshasa is now home to over 7 million Catholics.
Given Ambongo’s close relationship with Francis, and the fact that he journeyed to Rome to inform the Pope that the entire continent would not be enacting Fiducia Supplicans, the ready cooperation of both Francis and Fernández appears striking.
Indeed, the continent-wide exception to Fiducia Supplicans came only days after Fernández warned prelates they could not reject his document, writing how local interpretation of the text could not include “a total or definitive denial of this path” of blessing homosexual couples.
What remains to be seen now is what effects such a stance will now have on the wider Church, already so visibly divided over the controversial text. With Fernández having had to reverse his position in less than a week, bishops wishing to take a more public stance of rejection might well feel emboldened by the CDF prefect’s shaky ground.