Malta’s bishops have said that remarried people should receive Communion if they think they are at peace with God.

In a new document, “Criteria for the Application of Chapter VIII of Amoris Laetitia”, the bishops said that if “a separated or divorced person who is living in a new relationship manages, with an informed and enlightened conscience, to acknowledge and believe that he or she are [sic] at peace with God, he or she cannot be precluded from participating in the sacraments of Reconciliation and the Eucharist”.

St John Paul II and Benedict XVI reaffirmed the Church’s perennial teaching that divorced and remarried Catholics cannot receive Communion, except possibly when they endeavour to live “as brother and sister”.

But the Maltese bishops said that avoiding sex with a new partner may be “impossible”.

The new document, which was published by L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper, underlines divisions among the world’s bishops over the Church’s traditional teaching in the wake of Amoris Laetitia. The bishops of Poland and Costa Rica, several North American bishops, and others, have reiterated the traditional teaching, while others have diverged from it.

John Paul II and Benedict XVI taught that remarried couples could only receive Communion if they live “in complete continence, that is, by abstinence from the acts proper to married couples”. The bishops say this may be “impossible”. Critics of the document, such as Fr Brian Harrison, have argued this contradicts the teaching of the Council of Trent, that God’s grace makes it possible to keep the commandments.

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