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Curia 'not involved' in Zebbug anti-divorce billboard

The Curia was not asked for its blessing to the anti-divorce billboard set up by the parish of Żebbuġ, hometown of pro-divorce Nationalist MP Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando.

However, when questioned, the Church's leaders stopped short of saying they were distancing themselves from the parish's move.

"This was a parish initiative. The Curia was not asked for its opinion so the responsibility falls totally on the parish," a Curia spokesman told The Times when contacted.

The billboard which surprised Dr Pullicino Orlando when he attended Mass at the village band club on Sunday, reads: "Divorce: God doesn't want it."

It was set up by parish priest Fr Daniel Cardona after an internal discussion.

Fr Cardona said the billboard was partly a reaction to the divisive debate sparked by Dr Pullicino Orlando through his Private Member's Bill on divorce, but was "not only" aimed at him.

The billboard was part of a larger anti-divorce campaign the parish had decided to launch to target churchgoers and non-believers.

"For those who believe in God, we are asking them if they are going t o consider what God thinks about this issue," Fr Cardona has said.

Meanwhile, the story sparked a strong online reaction yesterday as readers questioned whether this was the start of a harsh anti-divorce campaign by the Church.

"What's next... the return of the Interdett?" one reader asked, referring to 1961 when the Church interdicted the Labour Party's national executive. Some argued that the Church had every right to put forward its opinions on the matter while others said divorce did not apply to practising Catholics so its position was superfluous.

Meanwhile, other people who commented on timesofmalta.com pointed out that the billboard's sponsor - an electronics company - got more advertising mileage than it had bargained for but may face a boycott by the pro-divorce lobby.

The sticklers for detail wondered whether the planning authority had given the parish the green light through a permit. However, the Malta Environment and Planning Authority did not reply to questions sent by The Times before going to print.

Dr Pullicino Orlando said he "totally understands" the position of the Church on this issue.

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