The Catholic Church in Malta should phase out “outdated” practices like baptising newborns, if it is to remain relevant, a well-known cleric has suggested.

The Church needs to radically revise the way it "dishes out” sacraments, and its bishops should serve among the people not just inside churches, according to theologian and lecturer Fr Rene Camilleri.

In a blunt interview on Times Talk, Fr Camilleri blamed the institution's inertia, among other factors, for the worrying dwindling figures of church attendances in Malta.

A recent census showed Sunday Mass attendance is projected to decline further over the coming years until it sinks to only 10 per cent of Malta’s Catholic population by 2040.

Read: Mass attendance set to collapse in the years to come

“I’m not surprised with these figures. The Church is becoming less relevant. Even though people are becoming less secular, they’re still in search of meaning,” Fr Camilleri said, pointing out that more than 90 per cent of those who took part in the census said they believed in God.

While people’s attitudes were dramatically changing, the Church continues to offer the same product it has done for decades, “marginalising” itself in the process.

Malta has radically changed but what have we changed? It's more of the same

“It no longer makes sense to baptise newborn babies and giving First Holy communion to seven-year-olds. We should change these practices. People should decide for themselves. People are giving their children sacraments when they're not believers.

"Malta has radically changed but what have we changed? It's more of the same. Religion is not folklore or culture,” he said, urging Malta to take the cue from countries like France, Italy and Germany, whose churches understood the need to let go of conventional religion.

Fr Camilleri, who resigned as Episcopal Vicar for Evangelisation in Malta’s Archdiocese last September said he agreed with suggestions that Catholicism should be removed from the Constitution as Malta’s official religion.

“We are a lay state – this goes back to Vatican Council II. We have become cosmopolitan, we are pluralistic,” he said.

Archbishop Charles Scicluna last year had said that if any constitutional convention had to propose the removal of Roman Catholicism from the Constitution, he would still argue whether Malta should be shorn of its religious patrimony. But he pledged, the Church would not carry out any "crusade".


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