Kerala Church Declares Interfaith Marriage Invalid
By Matters India Reporter
Kochi: A marriage between a Catholic woman and a Muslim man in Kerala has been declared “invalid” by an enquiry commission of the Syro-Malabar Church.
Cardinal George Alencherry, head of the Oriental Church, had ordered the probe by a three-member commission after a section of his people questioned the clergy “encouraging” mixed marriages.
“The commission collected details from the priests and bishops of Irinjalakkuda and Ernakulam-Angamaly archdiocese and submitted a report to the major archbishop. It stated that the marriage did not follow Canon law and was hence invalid,” says a press note from the Church December 31.
The wedding was held on November 9 at St Joseph Church in Kochi’s Kadavanthra and the ceremony was attended by Emeritus Bishop Mathew Vaniakizhakkel of Satna.
A photograph of the couple with the bishop, published in a newspaper, drew criticism from certain sections of Catholics in Ernakulam-Angamaly archdiocese.
The commission’s report to the cardinal found the marriage invalid on grounds of “serious lapses” by the parish priest and the bishop, who could now be censured.
Earlier, the Syro-Malabar Church had courted controversy after it set rules to ensure that interfaith marriages are held strictly following the canon laws. After the latest controversy, the Church had said that it would prepare a set of protocols and send to bishops to ensure that the interfaith marriages are solemnized in the Catholic way.
The Church had also asked its bishops to treat inter-faith marriages as “disparity of cult marriages” but conduct them in the proper Catholic way. According to the guidelines, the Church will not mix wedding ceremonies with practices of other communities and religions for interfaith marriages.
Bishop Vaniakizhakkel later regretted attending the marriage and creating confusion among the faithful.
“I attended the mixed marriage because of my close association with the bride’s family. However, I regret attending it,” the 74-year-old Vincentian prelate explained in a letter.
The bishop’s “exemplary step” of regret reportedly brought “great relief” to the traditional faithful in the archdiocese. Bishops normally do not attend mixed marriages.
Only in special cases, the Church allows a Catholic to marry a member of another faith, who does not want to be baptized. However, such marriages are not considered sacrament even if conducted inside a church, the website explains. Only marriages between two Catholics are treated as sacrament.
The Church laws also stipulate that mixed marriages should be simple without gaiety if held inside a church.
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