“Supplicating Trust” on the Pastoral Meaning of Blessings

Read Fiducia supplicans on the Pastoral Meaning of Blessings

Statement from the USCCB

WASHINGTON – In response to the Declaration “Fiducia supplicans” issued by the Vatican’s Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith today, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) offered the following statement from its spokesperson, Chieko Noguchi, executive director of public affairs:

“The Declaration issued today by the Vatican’s Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith (DDF) articulated a distinction between liturgical (sacramental) blessings, and pastoral blessings, which may be given to persons who desire God’s loving grace in their lives. The Church’s teaching on marriage has not changed, and this declaration affirms that, while also making an effort to accompany people through the imparting of pastoral blessings because each of us needs God’s healing love and mercy in our lives.”

Bishop Walkowiak’s response to publication of “Fiducia supplicans”

Christmas reminds us of God’s unchanging, immeasurable love for us. Likewise, today’s declaration, “Fiducia supplicans,” reminds us that the Spirit is always drawing us closer to the Lord. Many people respond to that call by asking the Church’s ordained ministers to offer a prayer to God for them with a blessing.

These spontaneous, private prayers and blessings are given routinely. They are nothing new. The declaration reaffirms an appropriate pastoral response to people who express a request for these prayers. “Pope Francis urges us to contemplate, with an attitude of faith and fatherly mercy, the fact that ‘when one asks for a blessing, one is expressing a petition for God’s assistance, a plea to live better, and confidence in a Father who can help us live better.’” (21)

The declaration does not provide, nor does it allow, liturgical blessings (which are public, regulated, and formally approved by the Church) for couples in irregular situations and same-sex couples. It does, however, encourage private prayers for such persons seeking God’s grace and the ability to follow him faithfully. “It is precisely in this context that one can understand the possibility of blessing couples in irregular situations and same-sex couples without officially validating their status or changing in any way the Church’s perennial teaching on marriage.” (Presentation) Pope Francis reminds us that these private blessings are “… simple gestures that provide an effective means of increasing trust in God on the part of the people who ask for them…” (36) We should all stand ready to pray for one another and encourage greater confidence in God’s merciful love.