Bishop Mario Grech, one of the co-signatories of the controversial “Maltese Guidelines” on Chapter 8 of Amoris Laetitia, has defended the document in a radio interview.

He told listeners Jan. 21 on RTK, a Church radio satation, that the guidelines are not opposed to the Magisterium, and urged reading them “as they are” rather than what is written about them in the media.

Critics have argued that the document contradicts Church teaching; the Maltese Bishop of Gozo insisted that the guidelines need “further reflection, study and prayer” in order to “assimilate them properly.”

Bishop Grech said both he and Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta had only one desire: to help others “encounter Christ the Saviour.”

Here below is the full transcript of his comments:

BISHOP GRECH: "A week ago, together with Archbishop Scicluna, we published the guidelines to show how, in the name of Christ, we can break the ‘jar of ointment’ on the wounds of those persons who are having great difficulties in their love-life (affective life); and which is affecting their relationship with Jesus. Amongst these we mention those who have lost their first marriage and are now in a second relationship. The teaching of the Church regarding marriage, sin, the sacraments remains and does not change. And put your minds at rest; because ourselves, your Bishops, we are very attentive towards all this and take seriously our responsibility, both in front of God and in front of history, of the teaching by which we lead you.

I appreciate the trust which the great majority have in us bishops, but at the same time it pains me when I notice that, among the flock, there are those who are not only rigid (strict) towards themselves, but would also be rigid towards others, and so are confusing you. Indeed, they would say that it is us, the bishops, who are confusing you! If you want a guarantee that our teaching is that of the Church, I assure you that myself and the Archbishop are in complete unity with Pope Francis. In the Church, to be in communion with the Pope has always been, and remains, a criterion which offers a guarantee that a teaching is authentic. The fact that the criteria which we issued a week ago were published in the newspaper of the Holy See, L’Osservatore Romano, confirms that the doctrine given by us bishops, is not opposed to what is known as the Magisterium of the Church. Whoever criticises us bishops – and criticises roughly and with lies – has a problem with Pope Francis; they are trying to hit us in order to get at him. I understand that these criteria, taken on their own, are not enough. But in order that one may assimilate them properly there is need for further reflection, study and prayer. This is not addressed only to the laity, but also to priests. I’ll give you a small piece of advice: don’t content yourselves with what is written in the media. There are those whose intention is to communicate half of the truth. But, I invite you to read the criteria as they are and, when you encounter some difficulty, seek advice (counsel). I know that we have many priests, religious, even laity, who are well-versed, who are quite capable of advising (accompanying) you. Also myself; I’m quite ready (disposed) that where a congregation is truly seeking the will of God, I will help to enlighten your consciences regarding this teaching.

In this document there is no new teaching, but there is a new pastoral approach which addresses today’s problems. And just as Pope Francis does in the Exhortation “The Joy of Love”, so also in our document, we bishops have returned to the well-spring of the Gospel and to those principles of Moral Theology that were taught by great saints such as St Alphonsus of Liguori and St Thomas (Aquinas). These principles were there but, what with their being difficult to apply and because we were living in a world built under the shadow of the bell-tower, perhaps we ignored them. And so, don’t lose heart; you are on the right road. This is a new wine that the Church would like to offer all to taste. New wine; but served in old barrels. The point of all this is not that we bishops want to be populist, or because we want to see the churches filled. Our desire is only one; that we help you encounter Christ the Saviour. Nobody must be denied this meeting; not even the greatest sinner. It is the encounter with Jesus which brings about conversion, and order to one’s life; and not first we convert (repent) and then He meets us. I firmly believe that when we once more give space to Christ, everything finds its place; even marriage and family. Peace be with you."

Translation: Marie-Claire Kaminski