A former Benedictine monk in Germany married his boyfriend recently, and the pair expressed hope their public act of commitment would normal the practice and inspire others.
According to Reuters, Anselm Bilgri, 68, wed his long-term partner, Markus Achter, 41, on Saturday in the Old Catholic Church, a splinter denomination from the Roman Catholic Church that recognizes marriage equality.
Bilgri left the Roman Catholic Church in 2020 after 40 years as a priest and monk.
"I immediately thought, 'now I have actually received all seven sacraments, from ordination to marriage,'" Bilgri told Reuters following the ceremony. "And I would like it [marriage equality] to become normal. It goes without saying that two men, two women... it doesn't always have to have sexual connotations."
Bilgri's husband, Achter, said that while same-sex marriages are commonplace in Munich where their ceremony was conducted, he cautioned such unions are not viewed as "normal" in less progressive communities and that it "is still something extraordinary when two men get married" in those areas. He expressed the hope that as marriage equality becomes "more self-evident, then, at some point, it will no longer be something special."
Bilgri was ordained into the church as a priest in 1980 by Joseph Ratzinger, who later became Pope Benedict. Bilgri left the church in 2020 in response to the revelations of sexual abuse as well as the church's inability to adapt and remain relevant in modern society.
The happy couple was wed in the Old Catholic Church, which officially split from the Roman Catholic Church in the mid-19th century, primarily over the issue of papal infallibility. The Old Church exists primarily in The Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Poland, and the Czech Republic. It left the Roman Catholic Church following the First Vatican Council of 1869-70; however, the church has a history dating back to the late 16th century in the region as the See of Utrecht, a group of priests in the region who did not recognize the pope's infallibility.