As with some of their Latin American counterparts, the bishops of Malta have produced a series of protocols—“Criteria for the Application of Chapter VIII of ‘Amoris Laetitia’”—which create the possibility for divorced and remarried Catholics to receive communion.
Signed on January 8 by Bishop Mario Grech of Gozo and Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta, the guidelines encourage priests to “enter into a dialogue with [the divorced and remarried] and to come to know them in a spirit of authentic charity.”
In line with a substantial number of diocesan guidelines on the subject developed in the wake of Amoris, the Maltese bishops’ interpretation rests on Chapter VIII of the pope’s document on the family—the chapter specifically focusing on couples in “irregular” situations.
“If, subsequently, they show a genuine desire to accept or engage in a serious process of personal discernment about their situation, we should accompany them willingly on this journey, with true respect, care and attention.” So wrote the two bishops of Malta, going on to add that “as a result of the process of discernment, [if] a separated or divorced person who is living in a new relationship manages, with an informed and enlightened conscience, to acknowledge and believe that he or she is a peace with God, he or she cannot be precluded from participating in the sacraments of Reconciliation and the Eucharist.”
The bishops’ protocols follow in the wake of a 2011 referendum on divorce in Malta that saw 53 percent of the 95 percent Catholic population back legalization— Maltese MPs subsequently passing the referendum into law at 52 votes to 11. Prior to the referendum and vote, Malta was the last EU member country to lack divorce legislation.