Muslim-Christian Marriages Stir Concern in Italy

Cardinal Ruini Appeals for “Prudence and Firmness”

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ROME, DEC. 1, 2005 ( The president of the Italian bishops’ conference has called for prudence given the increase of mixed Muslim-Christian marriages in the country.

Cardinal Camillo Ruini said that “the existential and ecclesial implications” of such unions “suggest prudence and firmness and call for a reaffirmed awareness of the Christian identity and Catholic view on marriage and the family, in virtue also of the consequences that derive at the religious and social level and interreligious dialogue.”

The Pope’s vicar for Rome addressed the issue in the introduction to a note on “Marriages between Catholics and Muslims.” The note was presented Tuesday as “Guidelines of the Presidency of the Italian Episcopal Conference.”

Cardinal Ruini said that in recent years the number of these marriages has increased notably, above all because of the immigration of Muslims to Italy.

The document seeks to promote a “homogeneous” position among pastors regarding the dispensation for the impediment of disparity of worship. Such an impediment would normally invalidate a marriage between a Catholic and a non-Christian.

The Shahada

The note, written by an interdisciplinary group of experts, addresses in four parts the pastoral context of these unions: the Christian view of marriage, the course of preparation, the celebration of the marriage, and family support.

The document includes several appendices, one of which is dedicated to the Shahada, the “testimony” or profession of the Muslim faith, required by some Muslim countries to authorize civilly the celebration of a marriage between a follower of Islam and a person of another religion.

Some Catholics sign that statement, considering it as a mere bureaucratic step to be able to get married. The note asks parish priests to explain that it is rather “an authentic act of formal abandonment of the Catholic faith.”

Another appendix presents elements that must be taken into account to understand the view of marriage in Islam, “a patriarchal family with pre-established duties and roles.” Polygamy, the text reminds, is allowed in the Koran.

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