January 25, 1994
This agreement between the Catholic Church and the Malankara Syrian Orthodox Church on inter-church marriages has been prepared taking into account the following elements of the Common Declaration of Pope John Paul II and the Syrian Orthodox Patriarch Zakka I Iwas of Antioch, dated 23rd June 1984:
1. The common profession of faith between the Pope and the Patriarch on the mystery of the Incarnate Word;
2. the common affirmation of their faith in the mystery of the Church and the sacraments;
3. the possibility given by the declaration for a pastoral collaboration including the mutual admission of the faithful belonging to both Churches to the reception of the sacraments of Penance, Eucharist and Anointing of the Sick for a grave spiritual need.
Having considered the above mentioned events and declaration, the Malankara Syrian Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church agreed on the following considerations and norms.
As our two Churches believe in and confess the mystery of the Church and its sacramental reality, we consider it our duty to specify the areas of agreement in cases of marriages between the members of our two Churches.
Man and woman created in the image of God (Gen 1:26-27) are called to become sharers of the eternal divine communion. The sacrament of marriage is an image of this divine communion. Marital intimacy and self-effacing sharing are reflections of the deepest inter-personal sharing within the Trinitarian communion. Hence this intimate marital communion is divinely confirmed by Christ with the seal of unity and of indissolubility, and ordered toward the good of the spouses and the generation and education of the offspring.
“He answered, ‘Have you not read that he who made them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife and the two shall become one flesh?’ What therefore God has joined together, let no man put asunder” (Mt 19:4-6).
Marriage is a great sacrament of divine communion and St. Paul compares the mutual relationship of the husband and wife to the mystery of communion between Jesus Christ and his Church (cf. Eph 5:21-26; Tit 2:3f; I Pet 3:1f; Rev 18:7; 21:2). St. Paul calls it a great mystery: “This mystery is a profound one, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the Church” (Eph 5:32). Hence we believe that the sacrament of marriage bearing the image of the eternal divine communion is also an image of the most intimate communion between the Risen Bridegroom with his Bride, the Church.
The Church is the primordial sacrament of the eternal divine communion and, through the celebration of her sacramental mysteries, she deepens her communion with the divine Spouse and enables her members to participate in the divine life.
Our two Churches accept the sacredness and indissolubility of the sacramental bond of marriage and consider the conjugal relationship as an expression of the above communion and a means to achieve self-effacing mutual love and freedom from selfishness which was the cause of the fall of humanity.
In this theological perspective, taking into account the question of the marriages between the members of our two Churches, we consider it a matter of our pastoral concern to provide the following directives.
Our two Churches desire to foster marriages within the same ecclesial communion and consider this the norm. However, we have to accept the pastoral reality that inter-Church marriages do take place. When such occasions arise, both Churches should facilitate the celebration of the sacrament of matrimony in either Church, allowing the bride/bridegroom the right and freedom to retain her/his own ecclesial communion, by providing necessary information and documents. On the occasion of these celebrations, the couple as well as their family members belonging to these two Churches are allowed to participate in the Holy Eucharist in the Church where the sacrament of matrimony is celebrated. We consider it also the great responsibility of the parents to pay special attention to impart to the extent possible and in mutual accord proper ecclesial formation to their children in full harmony with the tradition of the ecclesial communion to which they have to belong.