SAN FRANCISCO - The Catholic Church is softening its stance on same-sex unions.
Pope Francis has now formally approved blessings for same-sex couples.
In a papal declaration, Pope Francis has given the go-ahead for priests to offer blessings for what he calls couples in irregular situations and couples of the same sex.
The church still defines marriage as the union between a man and a woman.
The document goes on to say a blessing for a same-sex union is not a formal liturgical rite, but that the church should recognize those who humbly turn to god.
Supporters of same-sex couples, like Tom Temprano from Equality California, are now responding. "This is a positive step in the right direction that aligns with the continued acceptance of LGBTQ+ people in this country and across the world," said Temprano.
San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone has been a vocal critic of same-sex marriage and has discussed the issue of civil unions with the Pope in the past.
The archbishop released a statement reading, "I encourage those who have questions to read the Vatican declaration closely, and in continuity with the Church’s unchanging teaching. Doing so will enable one to understand how it encourages pastoral solicitude while maintaining fidelity to the Lord Jesus Christ."
Those who support same-sex marriage say being LGBTQ does not mean that one cannot be a person of faith. Equality California says for those who would seek the comfort of their church, this latest document is an important recognition. "It's an acknowledgment of someone's humanity," said Temprano. "Of LGBTQ+ people's humanity and dignity and deserving of being treated just like any other Catholic would be."
The document offers a few details, including stipulations that blessings are not be given at the time of a civil union, or with clothing or rituals associated with a wedding to, in the church's words, to avoid any "confusion or scandal."