Pope calls criticism of blessing for gay couples 'hypocrisy'

Pope Francis delivers Angelus prayer in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican. Evandro Inetti/ZUMA Press Wire/dpa
Pope Francis delivers Angelus prayer in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican. Evandro Inetti/ZUMA Press Wire/dpa
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Pope Francis has rejected criticism of his authorization to bless same-sex couples as "hypocrisy."

"Nobody is shocked when I bless an entrepreneur who may be exploiting people, which is a very grave sin," the head of the Catholic Church told the magazine Credere, which means believe in Italian.

"But they are outraged when I give my blessing to a homosexual. That is hypocrisy!"

The 87-year-old was responding to criticism from conservative circles in the Church of new guidelines that allow priests to bless homosexuals together - albeit under strict restrictions.

The decree, published at the end of last year, was welcomed in Germany and many other countries as an attempt to modernize the Catholic Church with its more than 1.4 billion faithful worldwide.

However, some national churches, particularly in Africa, have harshly criticised the declaration "Fiducia Supplicans" (which roughly translates as "imploring trust"). In several African countries homosexual acts are still against the law and punishable, in some places, by the death penalty.

In the face of such criticism, the Vatican has provided several explanations in recent weeks on how the decree should be implemented - including the recommendation that the blessing should not last longer than a few seconds.

Francis also made it clear some time ago that he does not want the blessing to be understood as recognizing homosexual partnerships per se. He said that "it is not the union that is blessed, but simply the people who have asked for it together."