the Second Vatican Council the Roman Catholic Church has been in dialogue
with a number of other Christian
and communions at world level; the bestknown of these international
bilateral dialogues, at any rate in
countries, is probably ARCIC the AnglicanRoman Catholic International
ARCIC produced in 1975 a Report on the Theology of Marriage and its Application
to Mixed Marriage entitled
Catholic Marriage, it has not yet achieved an agreement on interchurch
marriages which can be
by both the Roman Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion.
first official agreement on this subject is the fruit of the "Dialogue
between the Catholic Church and the Malankara
Orthodox Church on Interchurch Marriages"; this dialogue was undertaken
"because of the urgency of problems of
pastoral nature", and the agreement has "been definitively approved by
the authorities of both Churches". It has
been published in the Information Service of the Pontifical Council for
Promoting Christian Unity, Vatican City,
84, followed by some "Pastoral Guidelines" agreed by some of the Catholic
and Syrian Orthodox members of the joint
and approved by the Kerala Catholic Bishops' Conference.
give here the text of the agreement, which was published on the final day
of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity
Between the Catholic Church and the Malankara Syrian Orthodox Church on
agreement between the Catholic Church and the Malankara Syrian Orthodox
Church on interchurch marriages has
prepared taking into account the following elements of the Common Declaration
of Pope John Paul II and the Syrian
Patriarch Zakka I Iwas of Antioch, dated 23 June 1984:
common profession of faith between the Pope and the Patriarch on the mystery
of the Incarnate Word;
common affirmation of their faith in the mystery of the Church and the
possibility given by the declaration for a pastoral collaboration including
the mutual admission of the faithful
to both churches to the reception of the sacraments of penance, eucharist
and anointing of the sick for a grave
considered the above mentioned events and declaration, the Malankara Syrian
Orthodox Church and the Catholic
agreed on the following considerations and norms.
our two churches believe in and confess the mystery of the Church and its
sacramental reality, we consider it our duty
specify the areas of agreement in cases of marriages between the members
of our two churches.
and woman created in the image of God (Gen. 1: 2627) are called to
become sharers of the eternal divine
The sacrament of marriage is an image of this divine communion. Marital
intimacy and selfeffacing sharing
reflections of the deepest interpersonal sharing within the Trinitarian
communion. Hence this intimate marital
is divinely confirmed by Christ with the seal of unity and of indissolubility,
and ordered toward the good of the
and the generation and education of the offspring.
answered, "Have you not read that he who made them from the beginning made
them male and female, and said, For
reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife
and the two shall become one flesh?" What
God has joined together, let no man put asunder. (Mt. 19: 46)
is a great sacrament of divine communion and St Paul compares the mutual
relationship of the husband and
to the mystery of communion between Jesus Christ and his Church (cf. Eph.
5: 2126; Tit. 2: 3f.; I Pet. 3: if.; Rev. 18:
21: 2). St Paul calls it a great mystery: "This mystery is a profound one,
and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the
(Eph. 5: 32). Hence we believe that the sacrament of marriage bearing the
image of the eternal divine
is also an image of the most intimate communion between the Risen Bridegroom
with his Bride, the Church.
Church is the primordial sacrament of the eternal divine communion and,
through the celebration of her sacramental
she deepens her communion with the divine Spouse and enables her members
to participate in the divine life.
two churches accept the sacredness and indissolubility of the sacramental
bond of marriage and consider the
relationship as an expression of the above communion and a means to achieve
selfeffacing mutual love and
from selfishness which was the cause of the fall of humanity.
this theological perspective, taking into account the question of the marriages
between the members of our two
we consider it a matter of our pastoral concern to provide the following
two churches desire to foster marriages within the same ecclesial communion
and consider this the norm. However,
have to accept the pastoral reality that interchurch marriages do take
place. When such occasions arise, both
should facilitate the celebration of the sacrament of matrimony in either
church, allowing the bride/bridegroom the right and freedom to retain her/his
own ecclesial communion, by providing necessary information and documents.
On the occasion of these celebrations, the couple as well as their family
members belonging to these two churches are allowed to participate in the
Holy Eucharist in the church where the sacrament of matrimony is celebrated.
We consider it also the great responsibility of the parents to pay special
attention to impart to the extent possible and in mutual accord proper
ecclesial formation to their children in full harmony with the tradition
of the ecclesial communion to which they have to belong.
Guidelines The "Pastoral Guidelines" which follow the text of the Agreement
state that "the pastors of both
are bound in conscience to provide continued pastoral care to interchurch
families in such a way as to contribute
their sanctity, unity and harmony."
couple are "allowed to participate jointly in the eucharistic celebration
on special occasions when this joint
is socially required".
on Communion at the Wedding In two respects interchurch couples in the
West will regret that similar possibilities
those envisaged in this Agreement are not yet open to them.
The Malankara Syrian Orthodox Church is an autonomous church under the
authority of the Syrian
Patriarch of Antioch. It is thus one of those Eastern churches which the
Roman Catholic Church recognises as
in faith to itself
"in possession of true sacraments, notably the priesthood and the eucharist"
(Decree on Ecumenism, n.14, 15). For
reason the bride and groom are allowed to receive communion together, whether
the wedding and wedding eucharist
place in a Catholic church or in a Malankara Syrian Orthodox church.
regard to other (nonEastern) churches and ecclesial communities, this
kind of reciprocity is not envisaged, since
"may ask for the sacraments only from a minister in whose church these
sacraments are valid or from one who
known to be validly ordained according to the Catholic teaching on ordination"
(1993 Directory, n.132). Thus the
of another Christian to Catholic communion at the wedding mass is envisaged
(Directory, n.159), but not the
members This document makes explicit provision for the wider family to
receive communion together at the
not simply the bride and groom.
nonEastern Christians are concerned, the 1993 Directory makes no mention
of family members, but "because of
concerning eucharistic sharing which may arise from the presence of nonCatholic
witnesses and guests" a
mass is not encouraged (Directory, n.159). Many couples will judge that
if family and guests are unable to share
communion at the wedding, then it is better to celebrate the wedding without
a eucharist; other couples will decide
is noteworthy that the "Pastoral Recommendations for Mixed Marriages between
Anglicans and Roman Catholics in
of June 1980, approved by the French Catholic Bishops, stated that at a
wedding "eucharistic hospitality can be
for the Anglican fiance and family".
Published by the Association of Interchurch Families, England
Association of Interchurch