Controversial priest Fr Mark Montebello last Friday officiated the ceremony in which two gay men got engaged, The Malta Independent has learnt.
Pictures of the ceremony were published on Facebook showing Fr Montebello blessing their rings.
The officiating of civil unions, including engagement ceremonies, by priests goes against the guidelines of the Church and could be interpreted as being yet another incident in which Fr Montebello openly causes embarrassment to the Church. He has been reprimanded for his outspokenness by the Church in the past.
Fr Montebello had declared his position in favour of gay marriage and civil unions. On 16 May, 2005, in an interview published by Maltatoday, Fr Montebello, in full contradiction of the Catholic Church teachings had said, “that there needs to be a change in vision. The same arguments against gays were used against women in the past.”
He also added that he would not refrain from blessing the union of two gay persons if they asked him to do so. He had said: “I would bless them. Of course I can’t celebrate a gay marriage as that is against Church rules, but I would give them a blessing.”
The Catholic Church opposes gay marriage and the social acceptance of homosexuality and same-sex relationships, but teaches that homosexual persons deserve respect, justice and pastoral care. Last January Pope Francis criticized what he called the “ideological colonization of the family,” language that many took as a reference to gay marriage.
He added that “the family is threatened by growing efforts on the part of some to redefine the very institution of marriage, by relativism, by the culture of the ephemeral, by a lack of openness to life.” In fact a Vatican spokesman confirmed that, at least in part, the pope had gay marriage in mind.
Fr Mark does not refrain from sharing his thoughts on controversial issues and in the past he publically declared his views and practices even if they go against his own religion and beliefs.