Bishop Remigiose Inchananiyil of Thamarassery, who kicked up a debate last month by asking the Catholic faithful in his diocese to marry early, feels that late marriage is causing the shrinking of the Christian community in Kerala.
Coupled with widespread use of modern family planning methods, late marriage of men and women has led to a decline in the Christian population across the State. To buck this trend, he feels that young men should marry by the age 25 and women by 23.
In an interview to The Hindu, Bishop Inchananiyil said that his observations were not an ‘impulsive invention’ but an exhortation based on the collective discussions and suggestions at the second eparchial assembly.
“The postponement of marriage claiming job insecurity and material things caused a rise in the number of unmarried young men. A vast majority of them are forced to remain single all their lives and this is indeed a serious cause for concern,” the bishop said.
He said the civil law fixed the marriageable age as 21 for male and 18 for female. “A decade back marriages were solemnised around this age,” he recalled.
On the cultural transitions in modern marriage ceremonies, the bishop said transitions aimed at destroying the well-defined traditional values could not be accepted. “My circular does not prohibit the presence of flower girls from the Christian marriage and the prohibition is only on their presence at the time of religious ceremony in the church,” he clarified.
“The flower girls can very well perform outside the church. They cause nothing but confusion and distraction inside the church,” he observed.
Referring to Church’s stance on inter-faith marriages, the bishop said “there are provisions in the canon law to conduct a marriage between a Catholic and a non- Christian without the conversion of the non-Christian party. The Church always respects and takes into account such complex situations.”
On modern family planning methods and the views of the Church, the bishop said the Christian population is on the decline and it had done more damage to the families where a single child misses a balanced social and psychological growth.
Expressing concerns on increasing divorce rates, the bishop said the Church will not agree to divorce as it has no authority to do so on the basis of the faith.
“What the Church does in some cases is that, the ecclesiastical tribunal declares that the marriage in question was invalid right from the beginning,” he added.
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