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Church marriages hit record high

Church marriages last year reached a record high since 2001, with 1,536 being registered while the number of civil unions stood at 723, remaining consistent over the past three years.

The year 2000 had experienced a peak in Church marriages, with 1,715 couples tying the knot in the first year of the new millennium.

Since then, the number of Church marriages fluctuated between 1,562 in 2001 and 1,343 in 2009, the lowest number over the past decade, according to the figures obtained from the Marriage Registry.

Civil unions hovered around the 700 mark over the past years after rising from 455 marriages in 2001 to 544 in 2002 and 738 the following year. Last year, 723 couples opted for a civil union compared to 731 the previous year and 743 in 2008.

Cana Movement director Fr Joseph Mizzi said he believed the figures showed Maltese couples still preferred to get married in Church.

Asked to what he attributed last year’s record marriages, he said he believed fewer couples were opting for cohabitation and were getting married in church. Once couples obtained a Church annulment they were also choosing to get married in church again.

Fr Mizzi pointed out that, last year, the Cana Movement embarked on a pro-marriage campaign that seemed to be yielding results.

Earlier this year, the Curia released marriage statistics showing the number of Church weddings rose by 12 per cent last year compared to 2009, to reach 1,616.

Fr Mizzi was asked to explain why there was a discrepancy between the Curia’s figures for 2010 and those obtained from the registry.

He said the Curia’s figures included civil weddings convalidated as Church marriages as well as other religious ceremonies between foreigners that were not automatically listed by the Marriage Registry.

Over the past months, the subject of marriage has taken centre stage as the country debates whether or not divorce should be introduced. Two opposing lobby groups have been set up.

A referendum on divorce is expected to be held in the next six months. A Bill on divorce has been moved by Nationalist MP Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando and Labour MP Evarist Bartolo.

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