Catholic bishops in Belgium have defied the Vatican, and agreed to authorise prayer and blessings for “committed” same-sex partnerships.

The decision was announced in a document released via the Bishops’ Conference of Belgium website on 20 September.

It outlined that Flemish Roman Catholic bishops have allowed the blessings of same-sex marriages.

However, they stressed that this was not “what the church understands by a sacramental marriage.”

The blessing includes a ritual of prayer and a commitment to be faithful to each other.

The move is a step toward becoming a “welcoming church that excludes no one.”

Guidance also suggested that bishops wanted to “structurally anchor their pastoral commitment to homosexual persons” and denounce “homophobic violence.”

The Vatican

Willy Bombeek has been appointed as a staff member to help oversee the care of LGBTQ+ Catholics.

He told Reuters: “I’m proud to belong to the Flemish Church.”

“I hope that religious people in other countries will also get to experience this, and hopefully, this is only the beginning,” Bombeek added.

The decision has gone against guidance from the Vatican.

In March 2021, the Vatican ruled that the Catholic Church cannot bless same-sex unions, as God “does not and cannot bless sin.”

Despite the ruling, several Catholic leaders have continued to bless same-sex couples.

The Vatican’s orthodoxy office, which is approved by Pope Francis, published a note in March that stipulated couples can only be given blessings as long as they live in accordance with the “designs of God inscribed in creation.”