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Canadian rites issue

16 July 2009

by Pat Ashworth

THE DIOCESE of Niagara is from 1 September to offer same-sex blessings to couples who have had a civil marriage.

It joins New Westminster, which has allowed the rite since 2002 in parishes that have asked for it.

Niagara’s diocesan synod approved a motion requesting the rite in 2004, but the Bishop at the time, the Rt Revd Ralph Spence, would not agree to its implementation. The motion came back to the synod in January last year; the Bishop approved it, but also reserved the right to determine when blessings could go ahead.

Bishop Spence has since retired. His successor, the Rt Revd Michael Bird, announced last year that he intended to develop the rite, intended “for the voluntary use of priests who wish to offer a sacrament of blessing regardless of the gender of the civilly married persons”.

Bishop Bird visited the Arch­bishop of Canterbury in March to present his diocese’s plans. He de­scribed his conversation with Dr Williams as “helpful and frank” and said he had been “listened to, respected, and cared for” (News, 20 March).

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