Bishop Grech: 'There Is a Need for Spreading the Gospel of the Family'

President of the Maltese Episcopal Conference Discusses Aspects Emanating From Synod on the Family

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At the end of the Synod in which he participated, Bishop Mario Grech returned to Gozo, Malta, where he is the diocesan bishop and also has the position of president of the Maltese Episcopal Conference. During the last few years as bishop of this island, he has worked on certain aspects later considered by the synod, particularly the development of pastoral practice for the family «required by a society that is continually changing». It is a «continuous development» that requires from the Church «deep discernment», Bishop Grech said, more so during this year in the lead-up toward the next Synod. In this ZENIT interview, the prelate gives the first indication of this necessary discernment.

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Your Excellency, three points from the Relatio Synodi did not reach an absolute majority. Does this mean that those who were expecting an «opening» from the Church, regarding certain themes that were aired frequently by the press during the last months, remained deluded?

We must keep in mind that the subject the Synod dealt with was «The pastoral challenges of the family in the context of evangelisation», that include many more aspects besides those regarding the situation of divorced persons in a second relationship (divorced remarried) and homosexuals. even though these are also important. For example, I regret that it was not possible for us to discuss more thoroughly very important subjects linked to the family, such as union within the family, the economic system and the world of employment, or else the relationship between the family and education. About the three points you mention, it’s right to say that although they did not get a qualitative majority, they obtained a relative majority. It is too early to talk about disappointments, also because of the fact that the Relatio synodi, in which these three points are found, constitutes the Lineamenta for the next Synod in 2015. We are in a phase of investigation.

Benedict XVI has insisted that in the case of Vatican Council II, there was a Council «of the media» and another Council of the Bishops. The actual Pope emeritus had said that «The Council that reached the people in an immediate and effective way was that of the media and not that of the bishops».  Do you think that the same has happened in the recently concluded Synod?

It is impossible for that which happened fifty years ago not to happen today when we live in the epoch of digital social networking. We must not be surprised if the media gave a partial account of the Synod document. Instead, it is necessary that the Church continues to learn more how to improve its use of the various methods of communication to deliver its message. On the other hand, we need to acknowledge that there were journalists who did a good job and helped to make it possible for everyone to take part in «this journey together» the bishops of all the world were doing. In this respect, social media made a positive contribution to the synod debate.  We must not be afraid of debating, because this helps us to clarify our positions. Nowadays, theological reflection needs to dialogue with other sciences, and also must consider the real situations of life. Finally, I would add another contribution the media gave to this Synod: they made it possible for lay people to become interested and to accompany the Synod Fathers during these two weeks – also through their input. I believe that this type of participation is added value.

The Synod discussed also gender ideology. If this ideology spreads, in what way could it threaten the family, and what measures should be taken to counter it?

Throughout the Synod, at no time did we, the bishops, place in doubt the doctrine of the Church regarding the indissolubility of marriage between a man and a woman, regarding the unitive quality and the procreative dimension of conjugal love, in other words, regarding the bonum conjugum.  In regard to gender ideology and any other ideology, the Church responds with its fidelity toward the truth of mankind according to the order of creation and according to the order of salvation. Instead of allowing itself to be influenced by ideologies, the Church persists in its mission to propose the truth of the human person and the beauty of the complementary nature of the sexes. The Church, being the «paternal home», remains always open to accompany towards the Truth that sets free all persons without any discrimination.

What are the instruments we need to employ in order to make the family remain «attractive» in the perception of the young in the modern world?

In my ministry, I meet many persons, especially young people, who suffer from solitude and, in spite of being involved in many friendships, have a yearning for authentic love. A culture that advertises the «everything now», that creates «needs» according to market requirements, that looks askance at what persists «forever» and prefers the provisional, that promises pleasure to the detriment of true happiness, that trivialises sexuality — all these together with a situation of economic crisis and precarious existence are leading young people to perceive genuine love as a beautiful but inaccessible ideal. In this situation, it is necessary for the family to become in time – as has been stated in the Synod – not only object but «subject» of evangelisation by giving youth witness of the beauty of the love that is given, love that is disposed to accept sacrifice for the good of the other, that grows daily and matures in the midst of the suffering and trials of life. A love like this attracts, because it shows the Beautiful Love that is Christ, the desire of every human heart.

Regarding your ministry in Gozo, would you tell us how pastoral practice towards the family works in your diocese?

In the light of a pastoral conversion required by a society that is continually changing, in the last few years, in my diocese, the pastoral of the families was restructured in order to be more effective in accompanying courting couples and the families of today. In the Synod we often spoke about the importance of proposing a pastoral journey that helps couples before and after marriage. In Gozo, we propose a journey of marriage preparation lasting two years. During this course a priest and married couples accompany the courting couples so that their love matures humanly and spiritually while preparing for the sacrament of marriage. There is also the proposal of a catechetic accompaniment for young married couples, especially during the first five years of married life, that helps them to build their marriage on the Gospel. The Diocesan Family Commission also offers journeys of faith for co-habiting, separated, and divorced remarried couples. In addition, we opened a consultancy service that offers specialised assistance to couples who are passing through difficult moments. In this way, the Church in Gozo endeavours to convey to our families the Good News: the joy of the Gospel of the Family.

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Federico Cenci

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