Ukrainian Archbishop Says Same-Sex Blessings Document Doesn’t Apply to Eastern Churches

The 23 Eastern Catholic Churches all share one Code of Canon Law, separate from that of the Latin Church, Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk explained.

Pope Francis embraces Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, the leader of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, during a meeting with bishops of the Synod of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church at the Vatican on Sept. 6.
Pope Francis embraces Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, the leader of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, during a meeting with bishops of the Synod of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church at the Vatican on Sept. 6. (photo: National Catholic Register / Vatican Media)

The leader of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church said Friday that the Vatican’s recent declaration on non-liturgical same-sex blessings does not apply to the Eastern Catholic Churches. 

Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk said that his statement was in response to numerous appeals from bishops, clergy, monastics, church movements and individual laity of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church” regarding Fiducia Supplicans, a declaration from the Dicastery of the Doctrine of the Faith published Dec. 18.  

That declaration said that “Blessings are among the most widespread and evolving sacramentals” and that it is possible to give “blessings for couples in irregular situations and for couples of the same sex.”

The declaration clearly states that the Church’s teaching on marriage between one man and one woman has not changed and emphasizes that such blessings should “never” occur within the ceremony of a civil union “and not even in connection with them” to avoid confusion or scandal.

Archbishop Shevchuk said, according to an online translation of his statement from Ukrainian to English, “After consulting with relevant experts and competent institutions, I wish to inform you of the following: 

“The above-mentioned Declaration interprets the pastoral meaning of blessings in the Latin Church, not in the Eastern Catholic Churches,” the archbishop said, referring to Fiducia Supplicans.

“It does not address questions of Catholic faith or morality, does not refer to any prescriptions of the Code of Canons for the Eastern Churches, and does not mention Eastern Christians. Thus, on the basis of can. 1492 of the CCCC, this Declaration applies exclusively to the Latin Church and has no legal force for the faithful of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church,” he said.

The 23 Eastern Catholic Churches all share one Code of Canon Law, separate from that of the Latin Church. 

“The Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church is one of the Eastern Catholic Churches; therefore, it has its own liturgical, theological, canonical and spiritual heritage, which all the faithful are obliged to observe and cherish (CCCC, can. 39-41),” Archbishop Shevchuk said. 

He said that the meaning of the word “blessing” has a different meaning in the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church than the Latin Church. 

Archbishop Shevchuk said that, according to liturgical practice in the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, “the blessing of a priest or bishop is a liturgical gesture that cannot be separated from the rest of the content of the liturgical rites and reduced only to the circumstances and needs of private piety (Catechism of the UGCC “Christ is our Pascha,” paras. 505-509).”

“According to the traditions of the Byzantine Rite, the concept of ‘blessing’ means approval, permission, or even an order for a certain type of action, prayer, and ascetic practices, including certain types of fasting and prayer,” he added.

Archbishop Shevchuk said that a priest’s blessing “always has an evangelizing and catechetical dimension” and added that a blessing “can in no way contradict the teaching of the Catholic Church about the family as a faithful, indissoluble, and fruitful union of love between a man and a woman, which Our Lord Jesus Christ raised to the dignity of the Holy Sacrament of Matrimony.”

He added, “Pastoral discernment urges us to avoid ambiguous gestures, expressions, and concepts that would distort or misrepresent God's word and the teaching of the Church.” 

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