Priest dismissed for blessing lesbian couple

The central Swiss canton of Uri has a strong Catholic tradition Keystone

This content was published on February 10, 2015 - 16:16 and agencies

A Swiss priest who blessed a lesbian couple last year has been dismissed from his post in the canton of Uri because such a blessing goes against church doctrine.

According to the NZZ am Sonntag newspaper, Wendelin Bucheli blessed the same-sex couple in October 2014, stating afterwards that “in its form, the blessing did not differ very much from a wedding“.

Now, Vitus Huonder, the Bishop of Chur, has dismissed Bucheli from his post. The priest will leave his church by this summer and be re-assigned.

"His actions caused a stir across national borders and angered many believers," Huonder’s spokesman Giuseppe Gracia told the NZZ am Sonntag, adding that Bucheli’s actions “removed clarity from the Church's teaching on marriage and family."
However, Bucheli said on Tuesday that he would not accept his dismissal and refused to hand in his resignation. His congregation and local church authorities are said to stand behind his move to protest the bishop's decision and have requested a meeting in Chur with Bishop Huonder.
Bucheli says he feels comfortable in his congregation and that his work there is not done.

According to the NZZ am Sonntag, the mountainous central Swiss region of Uri had become home for Bucheli, who originally comes from the German-speaking part of canton Fribourg in western Switzerland. However, he had said in the past that he did not agree with the form of old Catholicism practiced in Uri, where he thinks priest’s blessings are viewed as a kind of “white magic”.

Blessing a homosexual couple is not allowed according to Catholic doctrine, although blessing an individual who is homosexual is permitted. After he blessed the lesbian couple, Bucheli told the local Uri newspaper Urner Tagblatt that he asked himself whether he could justify the blessing according to God’s name and will, and decided that he could.

“Today, animals, cars and even weapons are blessed,” Bucheli said at the time. “Why shouldn’t you also bless a couple that wants to walk together with God?”

However, Bishop Huonder’s spokesperson replied that “the bishop has to take his responsibility seriously and cannot simply accept such an offence, also because of all the clergyman and believers who stand for the Catholic faith”.

“Pastor Bucheli has deliberately acted against the teaching of the Church.”

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