Malta’s Auxiliary Bishop, Charles Scicluna, has stepped in to condemn a provocative letter written by zealous Catholic churchgoer Joe Zammit who claims there can only be lust and not love between gay people.

Bishop Scicluna told the Sunday Times of Malta: “Joe Zammit has managed to do a great disservice to the Catholic ethos by presenting a caricature of the Church’s teaching on gay relationships.”

Mr Zammit, a devoted Catholic from Paola in Malta, wrote a series of letters in the Times of Malta with offensive statements distinguishing between love and lust in same-sex relationships.

His most recent letter, published on Valentine’s Day stated: “On the spiritual level, homosexual acts are against God’s loving law for us. On the natural level, they go against nature’s intrinsic purpose of all its sexual organs.”

Bishop Scicluna felt compelled to step in and dismissed Mr Zammit’s comments saying his opinion “does not represent the teachings of the Church”.

Placing the emphasis on the word “chaste” he said: “The fact is that gay people are called to chaste love as any other person, whether married or single.”

Bishop Scicluna maintained that “Gay people are not called to marriage which is the permanent union between one man and one woman open to the gift of parenthood,” but then added, “they are indeed called to chaste friendship and chaste friendship is chaste love.”

“To say, as Mr Zammit keeps harping, that ‘there can never be love but only lust between homosexuals’ is to deny the truth of what the Church teaches.”

In August, the Malta Gay Rights Movement expressed disappointment at a bill to regulate cohabiting couples, which had just been launched in the country.

Earlier in 2012, the Maltese Parliament did extend its hate crime laws for the first time to protect citizens on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity.