Towards the end of the month of July 2009, the Prime Minister of Albania, Sali Berisha, announced he intended to propose a motion in Parliament to approve ‘same-sex marriage’.
The following day, some journalists decided to gauge the opinion on this topic among the religious groups represented in Albania.
The Catholic Church was the first to be approached, despite the fact that it only represents 15 per cent of the population. It ranks third after Islam and the Orthodox Church, yet, it enjoys high credibility and esteem for various reasons. Due to my position, I was the person who was approached first.
Within a week, the Catholic bishops of Albania made a declaration, which was published in all newspapers, in which we explained the position of the Catholic Church. Very soon after, the Moslems, the Orthodox and the Bektashi Order (a Sufi Moslem sect) also reacted.
So, together we published a joint declaration as the Inter-Religious Council of Albania. There was widespread reaction in the Albanian media, the vast majority sharing our stand against the introduction of the so-called ‘marriage’ between persons of the same sex.
Although Albania is secular, the religious groups are always consulted and listened to whenever a law will impact on religious issues, directly or indirectly such as education in private schools. It bears emphasising that this takes place in a secular, non-confessional country.
Therefore, I had good reason to be very surprised when, recently, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, a friend of mine and a person I know has the good of the family at heart, stated he is in favour of ‘gay marriage’ and that the time is ripe to discuss this possibility.
I was equally surprised when Simon Busuttil, the leader of the Opposition and leader of a party whose banner once carried the words Religio et Patria, also stated that he agrees with legislation to introduce such a ‘marriage’.
Berisha took heed of the position taken by the mainstream religions in this country and he soon withdrew from his previous statement. Was this a sign of weakness or was he a good listener? I feel it is a huge mistake when legislators ignore the religious sentiments of their people.
In an interview I gave to local television regarding ‘marriage’ between homosexuals, the interviewer asked: “Countries that are more emancipated than ours are today approving this type of ‘marriage’; is it possible they are all wrong?”
Surprisingly, there and then, the words of the Desert Fathers came to my mind: a time will come when all people will go crazy and when they see one who is normal, they will laugh at him and say “look at that madman’”.
Unfortunately, the state that approves of this type of bond, wrongly called ‘marriage’, is today considered an emancipated country.
We later got to know that an ambassador of one of the first countries to introduce ‘marriage’ between homosexuals was applying pressure on the Albanian government to introduce this type of ‘marriage’ to show Europe it is no less backward than other emancipated countries.
In the statement we released as the bishops of Albania, we first mentioned that both the Church and the State have a sacred duty to defend the dignity and integrity of marriage and the family.
Aware of this responsibility, we feel we have to raise our voice against the proposal of the Prime Minister regarding the legislation of ‘same-sex marriage’.
Then, as Christians, we presented the teachings of the Bible regarding marriage as a bond between heterosexuals.
In the first pages of Genesis, we read that God created us in His image as male and female. After creating man, God said: “It is not good for the man to live alone; I will make a suitable companion.” In metaphorical terms the creation of woman was formed from his rib. When the man saw the woman, he exclaimed: “At last, here is one of my own kind – bone from my bone and flesh from my flesh. Woman is her name because she was taken out of man.”
We then have the definition of marriage, with the following statement: “That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united with his wife and they become one flesh.”
These statements are enough for us to understand what meaning marriage had and still has in God’s plan. Human beings are created in the image of God, male and female. The woman has the same dignity of the man. Both, as two individuals, having the same dignity, join together in marriage and become “one body”.
Therefore, the diversity of sex is willed by God, who intended this for marriage which includes the possibility of procreation of children, something that is obviously excluded in the case of ‘marriage’ between homosexuals.
One has every right, if one does not want to live as a Christian, to reject this but a Christian cannot play around with the Word of God, which is crystal clear.
We continued by stating that, in every era, every culture and religion, marriage was always defined as the full bonding between a man and a woman. No Parliament has the competence to change this definition. For the sake of truth, let us not consider calling ‘marriage’ a bond between two people of the same sex or say that this is a right.
One says this without any lack of respect towards homosexuals. What is stated by the catechism of the Catholic Church must be accepted with respect and every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.
Finally, the cells that form society are not individuals but families. Not every change inevitably means progress. We should not fool ourselves into thinking that approving such a law places us in the league of the more emancipated nations. Let us, therefore, defend the ethical values that really guarantee authentic and healthy families.
This statement was very well received by the press and public opinion. Naturally, not everyone agreed with us but no one insulted us saying we were narrow minded or medieval.
Mgr George Frendo is Auxiliary Bishop of Tiranë-Durrës in Albania.