Mixed Marriages on the Rise in Holy Land

Leading to a Loss of Faith, Warns Franciscan

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JERUSALEM, MARCH 12, 2003 (Zenit.org).- The exodus of Christians from the Holy Land is prompting more and more Christian women to marry Muslims.



And more often than not, this means that the children are not brought up in the faith, and the woman herself loses the faith, says a Franciscan in the Holy Land.

Father Artemio Vítores explained that in the Middle East, marriage is the greatest ideal for a woman. This means in some cases that women stop practicing the faith or even fall into apostasy.

According to Muslim tradition, a Christian man cannot marry a Muslim woman unless he converts to Islam. This is not the case when a Muslim man marries a Christian woman.

The Koran allows Muslim men to marry "women of the Book" -- Jews or Christians, observed Father Vítores.

"Muslim tradition goes further and regards it laudable for a Muslim man to marry a Christian woman," he added. "The reason is easy to understand: Willy-nilly the man will succeed in having the woman become a Muslim, which will give him merits before God."

"In any case, the children born from this marriage will always be [considered] Muslims, despite the fact that the Code of Canon Law insists on the need for the children born of these marriages -- which are valid for the Church -- to be educated in the Catholic faith," the priest recalled.

Father Vítores said that in Bethlehem over the past six years, Christian women have married Muslims, which means that the children will never be Christians.

According to a study carried out by Franciscan parish priests in Bethlehem, normally there were 120 baptisms (more or less 60 boys and 60 girls) a year in the Latin-rite parish. Of the 60 boys who reached the age of marriage, only 25 to 30 have married in Bethlehem; the rest have emigrated.

This means that of the 60 girls, only about 15 have married. Therefore, 45 are still waiting to get married. These statistics can be applied, to a greater or lesser extent, to other Catholic centers, Father Vítores said.

According to the Franciscan, another cause of the problem is the lack of means to face marriage.

"Today a young man has few possibilities for marriage, as he lacks the fundamental elements: a job and a home," he said. "Muslim families, which are generally numerous, do everything possible to help the young man, at least, to have a home. This does not happen among Christians, who are less inclined toward solidarity."

Given the situation, the Franciscans of the Custody of the Holy Land are undertaking projects to build homes for Christian families in Israel and the Palestinian Territories, initiatives supported by the generosity of Christians worldwide.