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Pope Francis approves allowing priests to bless same-sex couples

(NBC, KYMA/KECY) - Pope Francis and the Vatican have announced a major shift in the Catholic Church's approach to same-sex couples.

The Pope has formally approved allowing priests to offer blessings to same-sex couples.

The Vatican Doctrine Office released a document on Monday explaining the new policy. In the document, Pope Francis insists that people seeking God's love and mercy shouldn't be subject to "an exhaustive moral analysis" to receive it.

However, the pontiff said such blessings could only be offered if the blessings are not confused with the sacrament of marriage. The document stresses that those blessings should not be conferred at the same time as a civil union, using set rituals or even with the clothing and gestures that belong in a wedding.

Pope Francis also wrote, a blessing "is a seed of the holy spirit that must be nurtured, not hindered."

The Vatican still holds that marriage is a union between man and woman, and as a result, it has long opposed same-sex marriage.

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