SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- In a historic announcement from the Vatican, Pope Francis has formally signed off on a new policy allowing Catholic Priests to bless same-sex couples.
It's seen a step by the Catholic Church toward a reality free from judgment for devout Catholics Bob Rucker and his husband -- as well as same-sex couples around the world.
"This is exceptionally good news," Rucker said. "This is the best Christmas present and pre-anniversary present for me and my husband. We've been waiting for decades to finally be recognized as followers of Christ with no judgement from the leaders of the church."
The Vatican's doctrine office provided guidance for same-sex couples to receive blessing without an exhaustive moral analysis, with a formal approval from Pope Francis.
The doctrine saying in part: "Ultimately, a blessing offers people a means to increase their trust in God."
It's radical change in Vatican policy coming from a Pope who has already shown affirmation toward the LGBTQ community in the Catholic Church.
"This church has ignored the fact that there are followers in Christ that are LGBT, who love Jesus and are not going to be pushed out of the church - time to embrace it," Rucker said. "And the Pope is being strong about that."
But Rucker admits this is just a small step - as the document confirms, by reaffirming that marriage is a lifelong union between a man and a woman and stating that the blessing must not be tied to any specific Catholic celebration or religious service.
San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone has been a vocal opponent of same-sex marriage and shared this statement with ABC7: "I encourage those who have questions to read the Vatican declaration closely, and in continuity with the Church's unchanging teaching. Doing so will enable one to understand how it encourages pastoral solicitude while maintaining fidelity to the Lord Jesus Christ."
Change in the Catholic Church is often slow moving.
But professor of Christian Social Ethics at Santa Clara University Julie Hanlon Rubio says the new doctrine highlights the idea that changes in societal norms can shape the church.
"I think if we had the view of gay couples that we did 30 years ago, or that the official church had 30 years ago, this couldn't be happening," Rubio said. "We have evolved with society, more slowly. So we're better able to say, 'of course we welcome this couple for a blessing'."
Bishop Cantú of the Diocese of San Jose also released a statement on the declaration.
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