(Valletta skyline, 27 October 2005/Brian Gotts)
Staunchly Catholic Malta approved the introduction of divorce, backing the move by a small majority in a referendum. “The referendum outcome is not the one I wished for, but the will of the majority will be respected and parliament will enact legislation for the introduction of divorce,” Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi said in a video statement on Sunday.
The vote was seen as a test of the influence of the Roman Catholic Church in a country where 72 percent of people say they go to Mass on Sundays and nearly all marriages are held at the altar. The Mediterranean island of 400,000 people is the only country in Europe not to allow divorce.
Early results from Saturday’s referendum showed a majority backing divorce of between 52 percent and 54 percent. The Divorce Movement declared victory and the anti-divorce movement conceded.
Opposition leader Joseph Muscat had said changing the law was a vote for modernity and a chance for those with broken marriages to start afresh. Gonzi had said divorce offered “no solutions” and called for better preparation before weddings so that the “value of an indissoluble marriage is bequeathed to the young.”
Divorce legislation was proposed in July last year by Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando, a member of Gonzi’s own parliamentary group. It provides for people to become eligible for divorce after four years of separation.
– by Christopher Scicluna in Valletta
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