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Church class to curb divorce - Plan for counselling before and after marriage

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By CITHARA PAUL
  • Published 3.01.10
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New Delhi, Jan. 2: Alarmed at the rising divorce rate am- ong Indian Christians, the Church is preparing guidelines on “how to make marriages work”.

High on the agenda is making both premarital and post-marital courses compulsory for Christians.

“Till now, we had been concentrating on premarital courses. Even that was not mandatory. Now we have decided that no marriage will be solemnised if the bride and groom have not attended the premarital counselling,” an official of the Catholic Bishops Conference of India (CBCI) said.

Church sources said the principal aim of the guidelines would be to put an end to “the casual approach’’ towards marriage witnessed in many young people. “The rate of divorce among Christians is alarming. The numbers are almost on a par with those of other major communities even though Christians are numerically much smaller. The Church is determined to bring down the number of divorces,” the CBCI official said.

The Church also plans to “modernise’’ the content of the premarital courses to include more topics, including finances, sexuality, communication, conflict, parenting, in-laws, leisure time, sharing of chores and mutual expectations.

As for post-marriage counselling, the plan is to call meetings of married couples every six months and give lessons to them on “the significance of a meaningful married life’’. Both premarital and post-marital counselling will be done by the parish priest. “Mostly, the strain in a marriage can be traced to some silly ego issues that could have been solved if somebody had intervened at the right time. Through these meetings, the Church expects to play the role of a good mediator. These meetings are also expected to act as a safety valve that would ease the pressure of married life on couples,’’ the CBCI priest said.

The proposed guidelines will ask Christians “not to marry in haste’’. The guidelines say: “One should always think about all aspects of the other person, including his or her educational and family backgrounds, and must also do proper investigations on the background of each party.”

The Church will also insist on a “free-state certificate” or no-objection certificate (NoC) from the respective parishes of the bride and the groom showing they are not married. If they are working overseas, such as in a Gulf nation where they cannot get the parish priest’s letter, they would be asked to produce a “free-state certificate” from their employers.

The Kerala Church, which conducts many NRI marriages, had recently made such an announcement.

“We have decided to insist on an NoC for NRI brides and grooms after the Church took note of a number of deceitful marriages,’’ said Father Paul Thelakat, spokesperson for the Syro Malabar Church.

The Church is planning conventions in all states to discuss the guidelines and seek suggestions. “All Christian sects are together in this as this is an issue relating to the entire flock,’’ the CBCI priest said.