In protest against Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki, eight Catholic priests celebrated a blessing ceremony for same-sex couples in front of Cologne Cathedral in the evening.

A good 500 people celebrated the service, waving rainbow flags and singing the Beatles hit “All you need is love”. Around 30 gay and lesbian as well as heterosexual couples were blessed. Many cried with happiness and emotion.

The official Catholic church brands homosexuality as a sin and discriminates against queer believers. However, in March of this year, the Synodal Assembly to reform the Catholic Church in Germany decided by a large majority to officially celebrate blessings for homosexual couples. However, the local bishops have the final say in this matter, and Cologne Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki supports the Vatican’s anti-liberal stance.

Wave of outrage

The blessing service on Wednesday evening was a reaction to the reprimand of a pastor from Mettmann near Düsseldorf who had also held a blessing service for homosexual couples. The Archdiocese of Cologne reprimanded him for this. This action sparked a wave of outrage.

After the service, Maria Mesrian from the Maria 2.0 reform movement said it was pathetic to admonish a priest who blessed the love between two people. She recalled that some time ago the archdiocese had blessed an iron grille in front of the south portal of the cathedral. “Grids and fences are sacred and worthy of blessing to these men, but love between people is not,” said Mesrian. There is no theological justification for this: there is not a single place in the Gospel where Jesus excludes or rejects anyone.

Lehmann: Important symbol

The Federal Government’s Queer Commissioner, Sven Lehmann (Greens), called the service in front of the cathedral an important symbol of the often-requested recognition of same-sex couples in the Catholic Church. “It is mainly thanks to the church base that the church is opening up more and more,” says Lehmann. “Archbishop Woelki and the Vatican, on the other hand, are light years behind social reality.”

A few meters from the blessing ceremony on the Cologne train station forecourt, around a dozen conservative Catholics demonstrated against the blessings. “Let’s stay Catholic,” read one banner. The organizer of this counter-rally was the “German Society for the Protection of Tradition, Family and Private Property”. However, anti-fascist counter-demonstrators gathered around them and loudly booed the small group.