[WATCH] Priests’ sex abuse pushed people away from Church, archdiocese executive says

The administrative secretary of the Archdiocese of Malta has said that several factors account for the low turnouts to mass, especially the accusations of paedophilia

Michael Pace Ross said that the results of a census the Archdiocese of Malta conducted in 2017 did not surprise him
Michael Pace Ross said that the results of a census the Archdiocese of Malta conducted in 2017 did not surprise him

Accusations about acts of paedophilia being committed by priests are partly to blame for decreased attendance at Sunday mass, Archidiocese administrative Michael Pace Ross has said.

Speaking on current affairs programme Xtra, Pace Ross said that while this wasn’t the only reason for the decline, it was a contributing factor, and one which accounted for low turnouts all across Europe.

“The quality of mass has to improve in terms of relevancy to the modern-day audience, the songs that are sung, the sermons, the punctuality,” Pace Ross said.

Pace Ross was referring to latest church census which was carried out in December 2017 and which showed that mass attendance has continued to decrease across all parishes in Malta.

On the weekend it was carried out, only 36% of Catholics attended Sunday mass, a 15% decrease when compared to the census carried out in 2015.

Pace Ross said that the census does not include Gozo and that the results did not at all surprise him. “36% of Maltese people going to Sunday mass on a regular basis is actually a good statistic when compared to the rest of Europe,” he said.

READ MORE: Why are less people going to Sunday mass?

“The percentage is much higher for people who don’t go regularly,” he added.

“There are so many things you can do on a Sunday, things you wouldn’t be able to do at any other time due to the constraints of a modern lifestyle—swimming, hiking, walking. People might keep in touch with the church only at Christmas time or during Easter. People don’t feel the need to go regularly anymore.”

In 1967, 81.9% of the population attended Sunday mass on a regular basis. This figure went down to 72.2% in 1982 and to 64.3% in 1995.

Pace Ross emphasised that Catholicism isn’t measured by the number of times one goes to church but rather was reflected in the good values one endorses in life.

The census also found that while 59.5% of married couples attended Sunday mass, only 1% of divorcees did the same. However, Pace Ross said the church does not condemn anyone whose marriage has changed.

“Catholic people voted in favour of divorce because they wanted separation between church and state. The state has to legislate for those people who require those changes,” he argued, adding however that Pope Francis was sending out the message that the church welcomed anyone with open arms.

This includes LBTIQ+ people, Pace Ross said—the church was now accepting all individuals with open arms, urging anyone who in the past felt was in the periphery of the church to come forward.

“The church doesn’t judge or condemn anyone, but while it has its own rules and its evangelical message should remain the same, the way mass is delivered will have to change. More effort is required. It has to keep up with the times and offer a challenge to whoever goes to mass,” Pace Ross said.

On the 2050 forecast suggesting that by 2050 the percentage of people going to mass regularly would go down to 0%, Pace Ross said he didn’t believe this would be the case.

“After all you will still have those officiating church services and those who wish to pursue their faith. I, for one, if I’m still around at that time, will still go to mass,” he said.

More in Xtra