Mixed Marriages, and Concerns, on the Rise

European Bishops Discuss the Future of the Family

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ORADEA, Romania, MARCH 6, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Large numbers of immigrants pouring into Europe are increasing the number of marriages between Catholics and Muslims.



This topic and its effects on the family were discussed March 1-4 at the seventh annual meeting of the presidents of the bishops' conferences of southeastern Europe.

Cardinal Peter Erdo, president of the Council of European Bishops' Conferences, and Cardinal Vinko Puljic, archbishop of Sarajevo, moderated the discussion.

The bishops recognized that within these marriages of diverse religions there is also a diversity of ethnic origin. Ethnicity is frequently the "more decisive issue and the one generating the most problems," they concluded.

Recalling that the Catholic Church "privileges marriage between two Catholics," both for the conservation and transmission of faith, but also for the couple's best interest, the bishops conceded that there are "just and reasonable cases" to celebrate difference-in-worship marriages.

Such marriages must include an "explicit commitment to work against the dangers of abandoning the faith and to do what is possible so that children are baptized and educated according to the Catholic Church," they explained.

"The presidents of the bishops' conferences noted the positive outcomes," the final statement read, "but the great difficulties and the risks these marriages face were not left unmentioned: the prospect of religious indifferentism, separations, dependence on families, impositions -- often on women -- the isolation from one's ethnic group, the loss of identity, and the difficulties in bringing up children."

The bishops determined to prioritize the "promotion of marriage preparation as much as possible, as well as the growth in faith and the awareness of dignity of the human person."

The next meeting in 2008 will focus on the theme of preparing engaged couples and the spiritual accompaniment for difference-in-worship couples.