VALLETTA, Malta, May 24, 2011 ( – As the tiny Mediterranean nation of Malta prepares for a referendum on the legalization of divorce this Saturday, its bishops have called on the overwhelmingly Catholic country to uphold the permanent bond of marriage, which they say is essential to human dignity.


The teachings of Christ “leave no doubt that divorce is the wrong solution – a solution upon which a stable society cannot be built,” wrote Archbishop Paul Cremona of Malta, Bishop Mario Grech of Gozo, and Bishop Annetto Depasquale, in a May 21st pastoral letter entitled ‘Opting in Favour of Permanent Marriage.’

Malta, whose population of approximately 412,000 is 95% Catholic, is reportedly currently one of only two countries in the world that prohibit divorce, along with the Philippines.

On Saturday, May 28th, the populace will be asked to vote “yes” or “no” on the following question: “Do you agree with having the option of divorce for married couples who have been separated for four years when there is no reasonable hope for reconciliation, and when adequate maintenance is guaranteed and the children are cared for?”

“By his vote, the citizen will either build or destroy,” the bishops wrote.  “A choice in favour of permanent marriage is an act of faith in the family, built upon a bond of love which cannot be severed; whereas a choice in favour of divorce leads to the further destruction of marriage and the family and, as a consequence, the destruction of values and the quality of life.”

Marriage “goes hand in hand with the dignity of mankind” and “should, by its very nature, be a permanent bond,” they continue.  “Marriage and the family form the natural core which is essential for a person to live and grow within an atmosphere of genuine love, as well as for the building of a strong society.”

“We cannot remain indifferent.  The Referendum deals with a very important matter and any person who may decide not to participate will show a lack of civil and religious maturity,” they add.

While those favoring legalization had been winning in the polls, supporters have fallen in numbers in recent days and the vote is now too close to call.

The bishops’ pastoral letter followed strong comments in a May 15th sermon from Bishop Mario Grech of Gozo, who warned of “wolves in sheep’s clothing” seeking to bring divorce into the country by pretending to be Catholic so as to deceive the faithful.  The bishop said any Catholic who rejects the teachings of Christ cannot receive Holy Communion.