In a development that vindicates those who hold that Muslims are deliberately trapping women of other faiths for marriage to change the demography of the country — and that this is not a Hindu conspiracy theory — the Syro Malabar Church of Kerala will soon issue a set of guidelines instructing bishops to ensure that priests solemnising the marriage between people of different faiths, called ‘disparity of cult’ marriages, are adhering strictly to the canon laws.
It may be noted that the term “love jihad” was coined not by Hindus but by the Christians of Kerala in the 2000s — after they noticed a pattern in the way Muslim men were luring away Christian women in the state. Since 2007, the Christians of Kerala have moved the courts, appealed to the state government and, in September 2019, also to Union Minister of Minority Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, to address the issue.
The church has made the decision after an interfaith marriage solemnised by a bishop a few days ago in Ernakulam kicked up a controversy.
The bishop had solemnised the marriage between an Irinjalakkuda-based Catholic woman and a Muslim man hailing from Kochi at Kadavanthra St Joseph Church on 9 November. Mar Mathew Vaniyakizhakkel, former bishop of Satna, had officiated over the ceremony. A newspaper published a photograph of the couple with the bishop. This drew criticism from a section of Christians who slammed the church authorities for ‘encouraging’ mixed marriages.
Cardinal Mar George Alencherry has ordered an inquiry into the matter and sought a report from the Archbishop of Ernakulam-Angamali Diocese Mar Antony Kariyil.
In his letter to Mar Antony Kariyil, Vicar of Kadavanthra St Joseph Church Fr Benny Maramparambil explained that the function was solemnised adhering to the norms of the ‘disparity of cult’ marriages. He said that he had received a letter from Fr James Athiyunthan, the priest of Kuzhikkattussery church, the bride’s parish, stating that there were no ‘impediments’ for the marriage.
Senior priests belonging to Kerala Catholic Bishops Council (KCBC), however, accused both the priests of flouting canon laws.
“The Catholic church has written rules to be followed during such situations. The bishop of the concerned diocese has to give his approval,” said a priest.
“Besides the probe ordered by Cardinal Alencherry, the Kerala Catholic Bishops’ Council will also look into the matter. After getting the report from the Ernakulam-Angamali archbishop, we will direct the bishops to issue strict guidelines to the priests on conducting ‘disparity of cult’ marriages, said the priest. “It is the participation of a bishop in the marriage that has irked a section of the faithful. He was known to the bride’s family. But he did not see to it that the family has obtained the required approval. He has admitted to lapses on his part,” said the priest.
The Syro Malabar Church has often raised concerns over inter-religious love marriages. In January this year, the media commission of the church had issued a report pointing out that Christian girls were being targeted and that secular harmony in the state was in danger due to such activities.
Vice-Chairman of the National Commission for Minorities George Kurian had written a letter to Home Minister Amit Shah, seeking a probe to curb ‘love jihad’ in the state. Kurian quoted a report by KCBC’s commission for social harmony and vigilance, which claimed that 4,000 such marriages were conducted from 2005-2012.