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Kerala: Marriage between Christian woman and Muslim man upsets faithfuls, attending bishop says sorry

Cardinal Mar George Alencherry has ordered an inquiry and asked the archbishop of Ernakulam-Angamali diocese Mar Antony Kariyil to submit a report.

Mar Mathew Vaniyakizhakkel, former bishop of Satna, has said he is sorry for having attended a marriage function of a Christian woman with a Muslim man. On November 9, a Catholic woman married a Muslim man at Kadavanthra St Joseph Church in Kochi. Couple’s photograph with Vaniyakizhakkel was published in a newspaper that irked the faithful section of the Catholics in Kerala.

Catholic bishop regrets attending the wedding

Vaniyakizhakkel’s photograph with the couple has raised serious concerns among the faithful. The 74-year-old Vincentian has written a letter in which he regretted attending an inter-faith marriage. He said he participated in the wedding because of the personal relationships with the family. Generally, bishops do not participate in inter-faith marriages. He wrote, “I attended the mixed marriage because of my close association with the bride’s family. However, I regret attending it.”

The Canon Law of Catholic Church and ‘disparity of cult’

The Canon Law of the Catholic Church is a set of laws and legal principles developed by the hierarchical authorities of the Catholic Church to regulate the external organization of the Church and government. It defines the set of rules and activities of the Catholics towards the mission of the Church.

‘Disparity of cult’ mentioned in the Canon Law annuls the inter-faith marriage that took place without a dispensation. An inter-faith marriage is only allowed if the non-catholic spouse promises that he or she will not interfere in the Catholic spouse’s religious practices or raising the children in religion. The Catholic spouse has to continue practicing religious practices and raise children as Catholics.

Vicar of the Kochi Church claims ‘disparity of cult’ followed

Fr Benny Maramparambil, the vicar of the Kadavanthra St Joseph Church, Kochi, wrote to Mar Antony Kariyil explaining that the Church followed the regulations of ‘disparity of cult’ marriages. He further said that he had received a letter from Fr James Athiyunthan, the priest of Kuzhikkattussery church, the bride’s parish, in which he stated there were no objections to the marriage.

Senior priests accused solemnizing priest of flouting Canon Laws

Kerala Catholic Bishops Council’s (KCBC) senior priests are, however, not delighted with the said inter-faith marriage. They have accused both the priests of flouting the Canon Laws. A senior priest said, “The Catholic Church has written rules to be followed during such situations. The bishop of the diocese concerned has to give his approval.” He further added that the Kerala Catholic Bishops’ Council would also look into the matter. Once they receive a report from the Ernakulam-Angamali archbishop, they will issue strict guidelines to the priests on conducting ‘disparity of cult’ marriages.

Guidelines to be issued by Church

The Syro Malabar Church has decided to issue guidelines for the bishops to ensure that the priests performing the ceremony between people of different faiths strictly follow the Canon Laws. Cardinal Mar George Alencherry has ordered an inquiry and asked the archbishop of Ernakulam-Angamali diocese Mar Antony Kariyil to submit a report.

Church’s objections over inter-faith marriages in the past

This is not the first time Church has raised concerns over inter-faith marriages. In January 2020, a senior Catholic Church priest in Kerala, Fr Varghese Vallikkatt, said young women from South India are being used as sex slaves in war-torn nations of Syria and Afghanistan. He also slammed the state and Union governments for not conducting a proper probe into missing women and children.

The Syro-Malabar Church has alleged that Christian girls are targeted and killed in the name of ‘Love Jihad’ in the state. The debate on Love Jihad started in Kerala after Hindu and Christian girls, specifically targeted and converted, married to Muslims, were found to be among the group of 21 people who had gone to join ISIS.

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