Updated 8pm with Curia statement
Archbishop Charles Scicluna has issued a formal warning against controversial priest Fr David Muscat, instructing him to stop making "inflammatory and hurtful comments" or else he could be stopped from exercising his ministry in public.
In a statement on Thursday night, the Archibishop's Curia said Mgr Scicluna had instructed Fr Muscat to delete a Facebook post, in which the priest claimed that being gay was worse than being possessed, and to stop insulting or using hurtful language against any group or individual.
It said the Archbishop also reminded Fr Muscat that in accordance with Catholic teaching, members of the clergy are required to display respect, compassion and sensitivity to people from all walks of life.
The formal warning is referred to in Canon Law as a penal precept.
The warning came hours after Muscat was interrogated by police and after the Archbishop had promised to take action against him over his homophobic comments uploaded to Facebook.
Mgr Scicluna offered an apology on behalf of the Church to all gay people and their families.
Speaking in a televised homily earlier, Mgr Scicluna said he was shocked by the remarks which appeared to say that being gay was worse than being possessed by the devil.
"These were not words of love but stones thrown by a heart that has to learn to love more, as Jesus did. God loves you for who you are… Those who say they love God, but hate their brother, are liars,” he said.
"I want to apologise on behalf of the Church to all those who were hurt by these harsh words, and their mothers and fathers who also feel betrayed by the church they love," he said.
He said he would take action to prevent a repetition.
Too little, too late. We have sounded alarm in the past years of how priest David Muscat was inciting hatred. Church action is now irrelevant. It is time for police action - as should happen with other denomination leaders preaching hatred.https://t.co/QYPBX5B4ac@MaltaPolice— Cyrus Engerer (@engerer) January 6, 2022
Earlier, Mgr Scicluna said he was shocked by the comment and many had phoned him to complain and express their disgust about what was written 'about our brothers, the gay people'.
Fr Muscat wrote his post in the wake of the murder of a Polish woman in Sliema on Sunday morning. The post focused on the alleged aggressor, Abner Aquilina, and the possibility that he was gay or bisexual, saying it was worse than being sick.
Paulina Dembska’s lifeless body was found in a public park in the early hours of Sunday morning. She had been raped and strangled and had no known link to Aquilina, who is the prime suspect in the crime but has not yet been charged.
Times of Malta reported that Aquilina, 20, attended a River of Love ceremony the night before Dembska was killed. Members of the group have since been called in for police questioning.
Following Fr Muscat’s comments, on Wednesday, Equality Minister Owen ministers and Inclusivity Minister Julia Farrugia Portelli joined activists in a call to police to take action against the priest for inciting hate speech.