The Maltese government has begun negotiations with the Vatican over a concordat (treaty) which allows the church to veto divorces on the island.
Malta became one of the last countries in the world to legalise divorce in 2011 but under the concordat, the Church can still veto divorces between Catholic couples even when these have been granted by civil authorities.
The agreement, originally introduced in 1992, specifically obliges civil courts to delay divorce proceedings if one of the partners files for a church annulment, the National Secular Society reports. The decision of the Catholic tribunal must then be accepted as final.
Current Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat now hopes to amend the agreement.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement:
“The Maltese government believes the civil courts must be the supreme entity in marriages so that there can be a separation of church and state. There is a similar will to have a satisfactory agreement between the government and the church.”