MUMBAI – India’s most senior Catholic cardinal and a close advisor to Pope Francis has said the Fiducia Supplicans, a controversial new Vatican text approving non-liturgical blessings for same-sex unions, is a “natural” for his country, calling it “an affirmation of our spirituality and a gift.”

Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Mumbai told Crux that in Indian culture, asking for and giving blessings is a widely accepted custom.

“I once met the Prime Minister, and he asked for prayers. I assured him of our prayers and our blessings,” Gracias said.

“Our Indian mentality is so inclusive, understanding people of other religions and other faiths,” Gracias said. “All are searching for God, all are searching for the truth, all are searching for spirituality.”

To the extent there’s controversy over Fiducia Supplicans in India, Gracias said, it’s because it’s been misunderstood.

“There is no change at all in the Church doctrine of a marriage between a man and a woman. The tradition of the Church, the magisterium is very clear and there is no contradiction at all,” he said.

“The blessing is like when a person is going on a journey, when they have come on a pilgrimage, they want a blessing asking God to be with them,” Gracias said. “Everybody has a right to God’s love and God’s compassion, calling the teaching on blessings in the document a “natural consequence” of this principle.

Gracias also said that Fiducia Supplicans is consistent with his own pastoral practice with the LGBTQ+ community.

“In the past I have said this and I want to say it again, they are part of our family, they need our pastoral care. I have met them when they have come to me sometimes privately in my office.”

“Jesus never refused a blessing … that’s the idea,” he said.

As a concrete example, in October 2018 the late Indian fashion designer Wendell Rodricks met Gracias. Rodricks also headed a group called the “Global Network of Rainbow Catholics,” which worked on the pastoral care of LGBTQ+ Catholics. The purpose of the meeting was for Rodricks to ask Gracias’s blessing on a plan to open a hotline for the LGBTQ+ community, in part to being them closer to the Church.

In a social media post after the meeting, Rodricks described his deep emotion when Gracias responded positively.

“I was moved to tears when Cardinal Gracias not only gave his total approval and support but also agreed to advise his clergy to be more compassionate and less condemning of the LGBTQ community,” he wrote.

“At the end of our meeting, His Eminence placed his hand on my head and blessed me in a special way: ‘Christ bless us for the work we are doing for society’. Suffice to say I felt blessed, grateful and immensely joyful. In smog-filled Bombay, my heart felt a rainbow in the sky,” Rodricks wrote.

Gracias insisted that such blessings do not court doctrinal confusion.

“I think people have interpreted it as meaning a step forward towards giving a sacramental marriage,” he said. “Absolutely not. I can say that categorically, at 100 percent.”

Gracias said he’ll use his own social media channels to try to dispel any confusion.

“One of the interactive question and answer sessions I will have on the Archdiocese of Bombay YouTube channel, which has 122K subscribers, this is the first thing I will take up.  I will take the question and explain in detail that it has been instrumentalized, misunderstood and misinterpreted much more than is normal,” he said.