Lebanese Archbishop Seeks Change in Church Marriage Laws

An Eastern Rite archbishop has disclosed that he has asked the ecumenical council to change existing marriage laws so as to recognize the validity of mixed marriages at which non-Catholic ministers officiate.

Melkite Rite Archbishop Philippe Nabaa of Beirut, Lebanon, told a press conference that “problems arising from mixed marriages are among the most serious obstacles to the reunion of the Catholic and Orthodox Churches.”

As a result, he said, he had proposed during the first session of the council that marriages performed by valid ministers, such as Orthodox priests, in which one partner was a non Catholic and the other was a Catholic should be recognized as valid despite the fact that marriage vows were exchanged in the absence of a Catholic priest.

Archbishop Nabaa said that the council will continue with the same ecumenical spirit with which it opened under Pope John. As proof of this, he noted that Pope Paul VI in his inaugural address “became the first pope in history to ask pardon from the other churches for the mistakes made in the past by the Catholic Church.”

The Archbishop, who is one of the five undersecretaries of the council, said the council will work to break down misunderstandings and obstacles that stand in the way of Christian union. He said that during the first council session the Catholic Church “expressed its great appreciation for the true Christian values in the non­Catholic Christian churches, that is, the Orthodox and Protestant churches, and through its cardinals and bishops has told the world of its desire for union with the other churches.”

The Archbishop said that “an atmosphere of charity has been created and a new spirit permeates the Catholic Church and non-Catholic churches. All the churches want union and all are working for it.”

He said the union of the churches will take place on the level of church with church rather than on the level of individual members returning to Catholicism. He added that today in the Orthodox world there are no single Orthodox churches which are closer to Rome than others. They are one in their attitude toward Rome, he said, but the climate for change exists. He stated:

“We Catholics have spoken our part and the other Christian churches now know our views. We in the Catholic Church would like to know theirs. We would like to know what they think of us, we would like to know what they are saying about us. We hope they will speak and think well of us. Now we are awaiting their reply.”

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