Pope Francis has expressed confidence that those who criticise his decision to allow blessings for same-sex couples will come to understand it over time, except for Africans, whom he referred to as a “special case.”

Reuters reports that Pope Francis stated that Africans perceive homosexuality negatively from a cultural perspective in an interview with Italian newspaper, La Stampa, that was published on Monday.

“Those who protest vehemently belong to small ideological groups. A special case are Africans: for them homosexuality is something bad from a cultural point of view, they don’t tolerate it.

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“But in general, I trust that gradually everyone will be reassured by the spirit of the ‘Fiducia Supplicans’ declaration by the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith: it aims to include, not divide,” he said.

Last month, a Vatican document called Fiducia Supplicans (Supplicating Trust), which allowed blessings for same-sex couples, sparked widespread debate in the Catholic Church and around the world.

However, the Vatican made it clear that blessings should not be included in regular church ceremonies or linked to civil unions or weddings.

It emphasised that it continues to view marriage as between a man and a woman.

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According to Reuters, last week, Francis seemed to recognise the resistance that the document generated, particularly in Africa, where in some countries, same-sex activity can result in severe consequences, such as imprisonment or even capital punishment.

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He said that when the blessings are given, priests should “naturally take into account the context, the sensitivities, the places where one lives and the most appropriate ways to do it.”

The Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria announced that Catholic churches within the country will not perform blessings for same-sex unions.

“That would go against God’s law, the teachings of the Church, the laws of our nation, and the cultural sensibilities of our people,” they said in a statement.

According to the bishops, there was a misinterpretation of Pope Francis’s decision to allow the blessing of same-sex marriage.

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“The Declaration reinforces the truth about God’s mercy. For one to willingly ask for a blessing demonstrates one’s trust in God and the desire to live according to God’s commandments. Asking for God’s blessing is not dependent on how good one is. Imperfection is the reason for seeking God’s grace.

“Therefore, those in irregular unions are invited never to lose hope but rather to ask for God’s grace and
mercy while remaining open to conversion.”