Book by Charles Vella is textbook for marriage counsellors in Italy

Mgr Charles Vella (left) with Don Giovanni D’Onofrio.

Mgr Charles Vella (left) with Don Giovanni D’Onofrio.

In 1954 Mgr Charles Vella founded the Cana Movement in order to strengthen and promote the Christian family. Since then he has been recognised internationally for his ground-breaking work in Christian marriage and family counselling. He has promoted this in Italy and several developing countries, besides Malta.

Mgr Vella has held various international positions in this field, including United Nations appointments. A prolific writer, he has authored a number of books on family and marriage counselling.

Now, a newly revised edition of a book he had first published in Italian in 1973 will be used as a textbook in training courses for marriage and family counsellors in Italy at a time when marriage and the family are facing unprecedented challenges.

This was announced by Fr Ermanno d’Onofrio, a marriage counsellor, psychologist and psychotherapist, who set up a school for marriage and family counsellors and mediators in Italy in 2008, when he addressed the Cana Movement’s Assembly of the Family held at the Catholic Institute, Floriana, on September 23.

Il Consultorio e il Consulente Familiare, Mgr Vella’s guide, has long been recognised as an indispensable tool for Christian marriage and family counsellors. The newly revised 486-page edition, which has a foreword by Mgr Angelo Spina, Bishop of Sulmona-Valva, and an intro-duction by Fr D’Onofrio, has an extensive appendix containing the laws of various Italian regions regulating family counselling centres.

The book’s 16 chapters cover helping couples through counselling, marriage problems, counselling clinics’ set-up, selection and training of counsellors, how to deal with couples seeking help, counselling on moral problems, and counselling inspired by Christian principles.

Fr D’Onofrio, in his presentation, said he looked upon Mgr Vella as the father of marriage counsellors which in Italy is now a recognised profession. He said that Il Consultorio e il Consulente Familiare has inspired many other publications to teach counsellors how to help families in crisis to overcome their problems. He stressed the importance of the first encounter between counsellor and client, and why it is so necessary to have a welcoming environment.

Appropriately enough, he observed, this book is being introduced as a textbook for marriage counsellors in the Year of Mercy proclaimed by Pope Francis.

Fr D’Onofrio was followed by his friend Aurelio Cesarini, who gave an illustrated talk on the work started by the 43-year-old priest from Frosinone among deprived young people in Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina, many of them still feeling the effects of the civil war which ravaged the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s.

In 2008 Fr D’Onofrio set up an international foundation known as Il Giardino delle Rose Blu (The Garden of Blue Roses). This organisation now has over 1,000 volunteers providing shelter, hospital care, schooling, food, and clothing to orphaned and abandoned young people. It is currently operating 20 projects but relies entirely on donations and voluntary help. (For more information visit

The Cana Movement’s Family Assembly was opened by its new director, Mgr Charles Attard, and addressed by its president, Arthur Galea Salomone, who said that those who had expected Pope Francis to change the Church’s teaching on the family were mistaken, as his Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia had shown.

In this document the Pope, while upholding traditional teaching, had insisted that those facing family break-ups should not be condemned but shown mercy and not judgedf, andurged pastors to meet families in their complex situations.

The Assembly was also addressed by the Vicar-General, Mgr Joseph Galea Curmi, while among those who attended the book presentation was the Italian ambassador, Giovanni De Vito.

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