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Church: Cohabiting couples cannot receive Communion

Cohabiting couples should not receive Holy Communion, the Bishops of Malta and Gozo said in a joint statement today.

Reacting to questions raised recently in the media, the bishops said the Church loved such couples in the same way as it loved all its members. It would continue to offer them spiritual help and it encouraged them to go to Mass and participate in the life of the Church.

"However, the Catholic Church insists that couples who live together without being married should not receive Holy Communion.

"The Church does not impose this as a punishment, but because the way of life of such people goes against the sacrament of marriage," the bishops said.

Furthermore, the bishops said, such behaviour went against Church teaching that those who received the Eucharist had to be one in unity with Christ and the Church.

The Church set up by Christ, had to be a faithful witness of such teaching through its members, the bishops said.

They added that some people were paying a high price to remain in communion with the Church despite having suffered marriage breakdown, and they had stayed away from a relationship with another person outside marriage.

Therefore, separated persons who were not in a relationship with someone else, could still receive Holy Communion.

The Bishops said they were urging couples who were cohabiting without being married to look at the teaching of the Church, renew their confidence in God's mercy, and seek conversion.

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