Bishop Mario Grech has urged Gozitan priests to forego pastoral rigidity and adopt an attitude based on mercy when dealing with divorced Catholics.

Acknowledging the difficulties priests faced when dealing with sensitive cases involving the family, Mgr Grech said morality had to be informed by the everyday experiences of people.

Catholics living in complex situations that contradicted Church teachings had to be welcomed, accompanied, offered discernment and integrated, he insisted.

He was addressing a seminar for Gozitan priests yesterday that dealt with Pope Francis’s exhortation on marriage and family, Amoris Laetitia, The Joy of Love.

Mgr Grech said priests should not to be judgemental on the conscience of others when called to offer guidance. “Many times, when we have been asked to shed light… we even replaced the individual’s conscience with our own and this is serious abuse.”

Christ wants a Church that is attentive to the good that the Spirit sows in the hearts of the weak

To this end, Mgr Grech will be heading a commission made up of a few priests to offer guidance where requested on “paths to discernment” by Catholics who have personal circumstances that clash with the Church’s teachings.

Amoris Laetitia, released last April, did not change Church dogma but was described as a breath of fresh air since it offers divorced Catholics who are remarried civilly a chance to receive Holy Communion.

Mgr Grech told priests the Church had to express its teachings clearly but this was not enough.

“The Pope is urging us to look at the doctrine on marriage and the family through the eyes of mercy… To those who prefer a more rigid pastoral approach that rejects confusion, I tell you Christ wants a Church that is attentive to the good that the Spirit sows in the hearts of the weak,” he said.

Mgr Grech said the pastoral approach proposed by the Pope allowed space for divorced Catholics to build a relationship with God based on what their conscience told them.

He said the confessional “should not be a torture chamber” but a place where mercy reigned.

“The Eucharist is not a prize for the perfect but is a strong remedy for the weak,” he said.

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