Guidelines for the increasing number of interreligious marriages have been launched by the Christian-Muslim forum. “When Two Faiths Meet. Marriage, Family and Pastoral Care – Ethical principles” is available free online (see details below).
Bishop Paul Hendricks, Auxiliary Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Southwark, and Co-Chair of the Christian-Muslim Forum, welcomed the new guidelines, saying that “they offer valuable guidance for both priests and imams. With an increasing number of Christian-Muslim couples entering into marriage, we also need an increased awareness of the particular pastoral support that is owed to them, which can help them and their loved ones discover their marriage as a place of dialogue, and a beneficial link between two religions”.
The guidelines are based on the advice of Christians and Muslims who have many years’ experience in working pastorally with mixed-faith couples. They urge ministers of religion to be welcoming of interreligious couples, and to give them the care they need at such an important time in their lives, stressing that great respect is needed for the religious freedom of each partner, and of their families.
Senior Muslim representatives were present at the launch, alongside the Director of the Christian-Muslim Forum, Julian Bond. He called this area of work “difficult but important […] for inter faith dialogue, cooperation and conflict resolution”. He stressed the value “of experience in dialogue and shared reflection on a range of issues” that the Christian-Muslim Forum has built up over the years.
The Catholic Church makes provisions for interreligious marriages between a Catholic and a non-baptised person. Muslim-Catholic couples should seek the advice of the local priest, who will be able to help and advise them. The coordinators for marriage and family life ministry of the dioceses can also offer assistance. Their contacts can be found at www.familias-ew.org.uk.
The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales’ teaching document on interreligious dialogue “Meeting God in Friend and Stranger. Fostering respect and mutual understanding between the religions” looks at the area of interreligious marriage and says that, with all its challenges, “interreligious marriage can offer opportunities for deepening faith and for cultural enrichment” and goes on to say that “the beliefs and religious practices of the partner who is not Christian must be treated with proper respect, and given every possible consideration consistent with Catholic faith and teaching”.
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1. The full guidelines can be found at christianmuslimforum.org/resources
2. The press release of the Christian Muslim forum, and an overview of media coverage, can be found at christianmuslimforum.org/113-inter-faith-marriage-guidelines-launch
3. The teaching document of the Catholic bishops’ of England and Wales on interreligious dialogue can be found at cbcew.org.uk/meeting-god-in-friend-and-stranger
4. For resources and support aimed at Christian-Muslim couples, go to mcmarriage.org.uk
5. Statistics based on a survey of eight Catholic dioceses suggest that 16% of Catholics who got married in 2010 married someone from a non-Christian religion
(see “Survey Findings” under celebratingfamily.org.uk/catholic_marriage_conference).