Kerala’s Catholic Church plays matchmaker
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Going beyond its traditional role of solemnising marriages, the Kerala-based Syro-Malabar Catholic Church has started an online matchmaking service to ensure that its members married from among the state's Catholic community.
The church recently floated syromalabarmatrimony.org, controlled directly by its headquarters in Kochi.
Church Internet mission chairman Bishop Joseph Porunnedam said: "Catholic youths are migrating in drives to various places in India and abroad for education and employment. It is difficult for them to find partners from their own caste and community. In such a scenario, the chances of our men and women tying the knot with persons from other religions are high. If that happens, in future, they may even abandon the Catholic faith. Hence, we decided to launch a matrimony service."
Several Catholic dioceses and religious congregations have also floated marriage bureaus, exclusively for members of the community.
But church spokesperson Father Paul Thelakkatt said there's genuine concern about its members. "Kerala Catholics working outside face difficulty in finding spouses of their faith. It should not be seen as preventing anyone from making his or her choice. We are not curtailing their freedom to pick up the life partner," he said.
Justifying the matchmaking, Thelakkatt said there no area in which the Church could not step in.
Growing inter-caste marriages, especially among IT professionals, have been a concern for the church leadership. The church alleged two years ago that, between 2006 and 2009, Muslims had "poached" 2,868 Catholic women.
The church, along with the Kerala Hindu Co-ordination Committee, had blamed it as "love jihad" - an allegation that failed to hold water as the claimed list could not be brought out.
Critic Joseph Pulikkunnel said the new area of intervention was meant to retain the position of the clergy. "Faced with stiff resistance from within the community, the bishops are desperately trying to retain their clout. If the Catholics choose their life partners from other communities, the bishops fear that it will endanger their status," he said.
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