KOCHI: The Catholic Church in Kerala has relaxed the doctrine that Christian matrimony is a lifelong indissoluble covenant of love between one man and one woman.
The Kerala Catholic Bishops Council (KCBC) has relaxed the norm to help thousands of young men and women who break the covenant under pressure from the secular world. The Church has not only reversed the norm but also lending a helping hand to the hapless divorced men and women, widows and widowers to find life partners.
The apex body of the bishops has started a matrimonial site called Prolifemarry.com to facilitate the marriage of Catholics living without a partner. The KCBC Family Commission took the decision after a study revealed that there are about one lakh widows alone in 32 diocese under the KCBC.
Father Paul Madassery, the commission secretary, said that all of these women are below 45 years of age. Unofficial data compiled by Syro Malabar Church had found equal number of Christian men above 30 years remaining unmarried due to their inability to find suitable partners.
The church also conducted a survey in Kottayam and the northern part of Kerala (Kozhikode, Kannur, Thalassery, Thamarassery, Mananthavady and Sulthan Bathery) and found that as many as 15,000 Christian men have not been able to find life partners.
The priest said that the new initiative is primarily aimed at empowering widows in the community. “We will contact each diocese to collect the list of widows from their parishes and compile a list within one year. We will talk to these widows and help them,” the priest was quoted by News Minute as saying.
“The unmarried men, widows and divorced women can register themselves on the website and find their life partners,” he said adding that they will levy only a small service charge to exchange contact details once the man and the woman like each other and would like to take the proposal forward.
The issue of unmarried men not finding suitable life partner has been worrying the church for long. To help them, the KCBC had organised a meeting in Kozhikode district in September but only a few men and women were able to find their life partners. The majority could not get a partner mainly due to disparity in their educational qualification.
The priest said that women who attended the meeting were well educated, while the men were not. And so, the women refused to marry them. “Today, women are more educated and prefer men who are equally educated. While boys opt for technical courses or menial jobs after completing class 12, girls opt for higher education,” Fr Paul said.
The priest has also claimed that some Christian men also fail to find partners because the present culture in the Christian community has set 30 to 32 years as marriageable age for men. “We will counsel parents in the church to reduce the marriage age of men to 24-25 years,” he added.
Syro Malabar Church Thamarassery bishop Remigose Inchaniyil had identified this as a major reason for the decline of the Christian population in the state. According to the 2011 census, the percentage of Christians in Kerala fell to 18.3% from 19.5% in 2001. During the same period, Muslims – the largest minority community in the state – grew from 24% in 2001 to 26.6% 10 years later.
If this trend were to continue, the Church believes that the state’s Christian population would be somewhere around 17% by the year-end while Muslims would be well beyond 27%. A difference of 10% can cause a lot of shift in the socio-political leverages that the community enjoys in a state with a total population of just 3.4 crores. The Church is perhaps well aware of this reality too.
To stem the decline further, bishops have been exhorting believers to beget as many children as possible. Some dioceses like Mananthavady has even offered incentives to couple who give birth to more than three children. This include free education and financial assistance.
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