A Catholic priest refused to bless the palms on Palm Sunday in protest against the Catholic Church’s ban on blessings for same-sex unions.
Father Giulio Mignani of Bonassola, near La Spezia in Italy, is an ardent supporter of same-sex marriage, according to local media reports.
The priest told his congregation on Palm Sunday that he would not be doing the routine blessing, which occurs on the Sunday before Easter, in protest after the Vatican forbade clergy from blessing same-sex couples because God “cannot bless sin”.
“If I can’t bless couples formed by persons of the same sex, then I won’t bless palms or olive branches either,” Father Mignani told the crowd that had gathered for mass on Sunday (28 March).
Catholic Church ban on same-sex blessings has ignited fury
Mignani’s intervention is just the latest in a string of furious responses from figures within the Catholic Church to the Vatican’s ruling.
There was widespread condemnation when the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith issued an explanatory note on 15 March telling priests that they must no longer bless same-sex couples.
The letter, which was approved by Pope Francis, said a blessing can only be conferred on a couple that lives according to “the designs of God inscribed in creation”.
While the note insisted that God loves all his children equally, it went on to say he “cannot bless sin”.
James Martin, a Jesuit priest known for his LGBT+ advocacy, said he hasn’t seen so many people ready to leave the church since the child-sexual abuse scandals hit.
“Not since the anger over sex abuse in 2002 and 2018 have I seen so many people so demoralised, and ready to leave the church, as I have this week,” Martin wrote on Twitter.
“And not simply LGBT+ people, but their families and friends, a large part of the church.”
Meanwhile, former Irish president Mary McAleese – a vocal Catholic who also has a gay son – hit out at the Vatican’s statement as “unbearably vicious”.
In a letter to Catholic archbishop Eamon Martin, McAleese said Pope Francis’ “chummy words to the press often quite reasonably realise hopes of church reform which hare subsequently almost invariably dashed by firm restatements of unchanged church teaching”.
She said the Vatican’s statement was “fired like a missile from the centre of governance of the church” and had caused “heartache and hurt” for many.