Today I am sending out a brief but heartfelt and important statement written by Cardinal Francis Arinze on a recent decision of the Flemish bishops regarding a special blessing for same-sex couples which the cardinal wishes to reach the general public.
Arinze’s brief statement concerns the report that the Flemish bishops’ conference, defying a prior statement from the Vatican, has prepared and approved a special blessing for same-sex couples to be celebrated in churches in Belgium (link).
Arinze believes the bishops have made an error, and he sets forth his reasons in this statement.
Arinze, 89, is a Nigerian cardinal who for a time was considered to be a possible successor to Pope John Paul II. His lifetime of dedicated service to the Church and to the people of his native Nigeria has made him a sort of “elder statesman” of the Church. Today, even at age 89, he is one of the most authoritative voices of the Catholic Church in Africa.
Arinze was Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments from 2002 to 2008. He was ordained a priest at the age of 25 and became bishop just seven years later when he was 32. He was named cardinal in 1985, when he was 52, making him one of the highest-ranking African clerics at the time. Arinze was considered a potential successor to Pope John Paul II before the 2005 papal conclave, which elected Pope Benedict XVI. (link)
Arinze is well known to many Catholics in the United States because he has visited the country many times, speaking at various venues, including Christendom College in Front Royal, Virginia.
He lives in Rome in a Vatican apartment a few steps from St. Peter’s Basilica.
I have known him since the 1980s, for almost 40 years, and respect him for his honesty, integrity, and example of lived Christian faith.
I did not ask the cardinal for a comment on the decision of the Flemish bishops. He emailed it to me and asked me to share it with a wider audience. (This email is read by some 20,000 readers around the world.)
I send this email from Beirut, Lebanon, where I have been with a small group of American pilgrims for the past eight days, visiting the country and working on some special projects in support of the presence of Christians in this beautiful country.—RM