Uniate Church priest supports gay marriages that remain a sore subject in Slovakia
Slovakia is bucking the trend in the EU by refusing to recognise same sex marriages conducted in other EU countries. In fact it's taken a unilateral decision on this even after justice and interior ministers agreed to recognise same sex marriages conducted in other member states. But some Slovaks plan to defy their own government on the issue. Jozef Pavlovic is a former priest in the Uniate Church who wants to conduct same sex marriages in Slovakia.
We asked him to explain why:
"My intention was to follow the ancient tradition. Until the beginning of the 17th century the Church used to also bless marriages of people of the same sex. There are numerous records of this ritual. American professor John Boswell writes about this in his books. I wanted to wed a gay and a lesbian couple but I wasn't successful. The couples simply broke up. It is a problem in this community to find a couple of people who are believers and would like to have their relationship blessed by the church. This minority has got used to being ignored by the church."
It is not legal in Slovakia to marry people of the same sex. If you find a couple who would like to get married what would happen? Would it be possible for you to wed such a couple in a sacred place, in the church?
"It would probably not be performed in a church but in some garden or on a meadow or something like that. All rituals are for people, the human being is the core of the ritual. I wouldn't find it a problem not to wed those couples in a church. And I wouldn't have any problem also with permission because I wouldn't ask for any. The permission to act like this is given to me by my conscience, the request of the couple and the ancient chance to bless ties of the same sex following a ritual found in ancient sources. The church used to bless crops, animals and weapons. I will not ask for any permission to bless a relationship of two people in love."
Would this act be legal? Would the church recognise a marriage performed by a suspended priest?
"Following Catholic doctrine, I am and forever will be a priest. I was talking about John Boswell. He was talking about rituals when the younger partner lays a hand on the gospel, the older partner lays his hand on the younger one's and they kiss after the blessing. Boswell used to be criticised by pro-Vatican theologians who claim that this was the ritual of spiritual brotherhood. I, however, have a church repository in which it is explicitly said that people blessed this way were spouses according to contemporary church context.
The text which I have is a kind of decree which cancels this kind of ritual in most of the European regions. Many politicians claim they want to keep traditional values. Here you are. Blessing homosexual couples is a traditional value. It is one of the top values when two people love each other."
How do you see the future of registered partnerships in Slovakia? Do you think that people will accept and not fear them?
"Fear or not to fear. I think that Slovaks are the same as other Europeans. Westerners are probably more flexible but it is not ideal either. This discrimination has been formed for several centuries. It is difficult to predict what it will be like in Slovakia. I think that the young generation today sees things differently to their parents. Slovaks are not silly, they are quite sensible so the future will not be catastrophic. It will take some time but we'll get there."