Sun, May 16, 2004 - Page 6 News List

Vatican warns against marriages with Muslims

NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE , ROME

In an official church document released Friday, Vatican officials discouraged marriage between Catholics and Muslims -- between Catholic women and Muslim men especially.

When "a Catholic woman and a Muslim wish to marry," the document says, "bitter experience teaches us that a particularly careful and in-depth preparation is called for."

It also says "profound cultural and religious differences" exist between the two faiths, particularly concerning the rights of women, who are referred to as "the least protected member of the Muslim family."

The document, written by the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People, sets these issues in a context of globalism and easy travel that encourages the mixing of religions. Although it makes no mention of the conflicts in the Middle East, its release comes during a time of heightened anger in the Muslim world.

The document indicates several points of commonality between Catholicism and Islam, like a belief in God, daily prayer, fasting, charity, pilgrimage and "the fight against injustice."

At the same time, it gently chides Muslims for faltering on the issue of human rights.

"We hope there will be, on the part of our Muslim brothers and sisters," its authors write, "a growing awareness that fundamental liberties, the inviolable rights of the person, the equal dignity of man and woman, the democratic principle of government and the healthy lay character of the state are principles that cannot be surrendered."

The Vatican has long encouraged Catholics to marry within the faith, and the current document -- an 80-page booklet titled The Love of Christ Towards Migrants -- makes the same point again. It says marriage between Catholics and all non-Christians "should be discouraged," mainly for the sake of children.

Earlier this week, the Roman Catholic Church released a similar document expressing its disdain for same-sex unions. In a pointed reference to Islam, however, the document released Friday said: "It is well known that the norms of the two religions are in stark contrast."

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