[WATCH] Church put aside Christ’s image to focus on rules, codes – Cardinal Mario Grech

Xtra on TVM | Cardinal Mario Grech speaks of a Church that should be less focussed on morals and rules and more interested in helping people find Christ

Cardinal Mario Grech
Cardinal Mario Grech

The Church should focus on helping people find Christ rather than be an institution of rules, Cardinal Mario Grech said in the wake of divorce law changes.

“Until yesterday the attraction of the church lay in its rules, its codes – moral and canonical – and that’s the problem, because we put aside the image of Christ,” Grech said on TVM’s Xtra.

He was reply to TV show host Saviour Balzan’s question as to whether the Church in Malta should be more vocal in its position as government proposes more liberal divorce legislation.

READ ALSO: Divorce changes will give Malta more liberal regime

“Before the Church presents morals it needs to present Jesus Christ… there are those who have heard us talk about the principles of ethics for so long that they have lost focus on who Jesus Christ is,” Grech said.

Quoting Pope Francis, he added, “moralism will not save people”.

A former bishop of Gozo, Grech was appointed cardinal by the Pope last month. He currently serves as the secretary general of the Synod of Bishops in the Vatican, a post he formally took up last September.

Asked how the Church can adapt to keep up with an ever-changing society without losing sight of its identity, Grech said the Church has to be brave enough to bring about change where it is needed. 

It frustrates me when people ask us about the problems of sex, or of sexuality. These are not our speciality. Our speciality is Jesus Christ, so what we have to do is help our fellow men understand who is Jesus Christ... Cardinal Mario Grech

“The Church seeks to be close to the people, and this means that it has to be ready to adapt itself, to better understand the scriptures and apply them for our days, because sometimes the scriptures are interpreted in the same way as they were 50 or a 100 years ago,” he said.

Grech argued that the Church should focus less on laying down ideological positions, and more on supporting people in their quest to find Christ.

“It frustrates me when people ask us about the problems of sex, or of sexuality. These are not our speciality. Our speciality is Jesus Christ, so what we have to do is help our fellow men understand who is Jesus Christ, and then all the other issues and challenges take on a different colour,” he said.

The cardinal insisted that even in this day and age, people are still seeking the presence of God in their lives, even though they themselves may not know it.

He argued that people may sometimes try to chase after materialistic pleasures to fill the void left by the absence of God, only to discover that these are not enough.

“People are looking for something to fill their hearts, and what we need to do is discover the presence of God around us,” he said. 

Asked about the Church’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Grech said the Church has been doing good work, both on the charitable front by offering solidarity, as well as by acting as a ray of hope to people going through difficult times.

“In these dark times, we need someone to light a candle so we can have at least a spark of light, and I think that the Church is doing this; inspiring hope in people, so that despite all this suffering, one does not give up,” he said. 

Grech said he has no clue why the Pope chose to elevate him to the position of cardinal. He explained that while he will continue with his duties at the head of the Synod of Bishops, he will also, like all other cardinals, be given a role in one of the Vatican’s other ministries.

However, Frank Zammit, Malta's ambassador to the Holy See, was less modest about Grech’s elevation, stating that he sees the appointment as the Pope’s endorsement of the Maltese episcopate.

“In the last years, Cardinal Grech has shown great symmetry with the Pope’s own thoughts, and I think this has led the Pope to view him as one of his primary supporters in the Roman Curia,” Zammit said in Skype call.

The ambassador also compared Grech to Pope Francis, arguing that the new Cardinal has many of the same characteristics as the Pope, especially where his work with the most marginalised members of society is concerned. 

Meanwhile, Grech himself concluded on an optimistic note when asked whether his vision for the future of the Church is realistic, or merely a dream.

“It is a dream… but God forbid that we stop dreaming and finding ways of how we can transform those dreams into reality to change the everyday life of people and communities for the better,” he said. 

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