Divorce a spur to conversion for many Arab Christians

Annulments have broader implication in Middle East

Pope Francis has insisted that his annulment reforms are not a subversion of the Church’s teaching against divorce. But in the Middle East, annulments are divorces both in intent and in effect, reports The Catholic Herald.

Indeed, as no States in the Middle East and North Africa, apart from Turkey and Tunisia, have civil marriage and divorce laws, annulments have become an avenue of de facto divorce for Catholics. Unlike in the West, with its civil marriage and divorce laws, in the Middle East annulments have far-reaching civil consequences.

As certainty cannot be applied to all cases, many Arab Christians wanting to divorce resort to converting to another religion such as Islam or the Greek Orthodox Church. Some Catholics prefer this due to the difficulty of explaining to their children how, despite the marriage being voided, they are not illegitimate.

Fr Emil Salayta, judge of the Latin Patriarchate court in Jerusalem and president of a recent conference on the subject, stressed than an annulment deals with the legal formalities of the wedding ceremony, and not the reasons that provoked the breakdown in the marriage or prompted one or both of the spouses to request an end to the marriage.

Photo: A Palestinian Christian bride enters the Church of Nativity, believed to be the birthplace of Jesus Christ (AP)

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