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Benedict would have banned same-sex blessings

The Vatican marked the first anniversary of the death of Pope Benedict XVI, with one of his closest aides saying he never would have approved a recent declaration allowing Catholic priests to bless same-sex couples.

Cardinal Gerhard Müller, who was the Church’s doctrinal chief under Benedict, and Archbishop Georg Gänswein, who was Benedict’s private secretary, both German, were two headliners at an event marking the anniversary and organised by the conservative US-based Catholic television network EWTN.

“It never would have happened (under Benedict) because it was so ambiguous,” Cardinal Müller said on the sidelines of the event when asked by Reuters about the landmark declaration issued on 18 December.

While the December declaration says such blessings cannot resemble the sacrament of matrimony between a man and a woman and cannot be part of rituals or liturgies, some advocates of more inclusion of LGBT people saw it as a possible precursor of same-sex marriage in the Church.

“There is no homosexual matrimony. It does not exist, it cannot exist, despite ideologies we have (today),” said Cardinal Müller, whom Francis removed as head of the Vatican’s doctrinal department after Benedict resigned in 2013.

Read more: Criticism of Pope intensified since Benedict’s death

Pope Francis briefly noted the anniversary in his Sunday blessing to crowds in St Peter’s Square, saying Benedict had “served the Church with love and wisdom” and that he “We feel so much affection, so much gratitude, so much admiration for him”.

Pope Francis then asked the crowd for a round of applause for Benedict, who was the first pope in 700 years to step down instead of rule for life.

Cardinal Müller said that while his personal relationship with Francis is “very good” he does not hesitate to disagree with him in public on doctrinal issues because “we are not in the Soviet Union where only one leader has a say”.

Cardinal Müller said: “the best thing we can do for the pope is always to be close to the Catholic truth and faith and not to be here as adulators”.

Archbishop Gänswein’s voice broke twice with emotion while reading his homily

Earlier in St Peter’s Basilica, Archbishop Gänswein, Benedict’s secretary, said a memorial Mass for Benedict. Archbishop Gänswein’s voice broke twice with emotion while reading his homily.

Benedict’s shock resignation divided the Church, with many saying he should not have stepped down.

His 10 years living in the Vatican as “pope emeritus” widened the conservative-progressive divide, with some diehard traditionalists not recognising Francis as leader.

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