July 6, 2009

Baptists and Catholics in Italy Reach Agreement on Marriage

Eron Henry, Associate Director of Communications
Neville Callam, General Secretary
Baptist World Alliance
July 2, 2009

Baptists and Roman Catholics in Italy signed an agreement on "mixed" or interchurch marriages between members of the two Christian faith traditions.

Called "A Common document for a pastoral approach to marriages between Catholics and Baptists in Italy," the agreement addresses Baptists and Catholics who marry each other, in order to help these couples in their preparation for marriage and family life. It also seeks to deepen couples' awareness of their rights and obligations toward each other, and clarify their relationship with their respective churches.

With this document, said Anna Maffei, president of the Christian Evangelical Baptist Union of Italy (UCEBI), "we offer to our communities and our pastors a practical guide so that the confessional difference that remains between the future spouses may not be experienced as an obstacle but as enrichment."

Maffei, who signed the agreement on the behalf of Italian Baptists, said that "respective churches should not be competitors anymore but places of listening and encouragement to communion," highlighting "all that is unifying in spirit and love of God."

Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, president of the Italian Episcopal Conference (CEI), who signed for Italian Catholics, declared that "the document is a common step in the journey of ecumenism between the Catholic church and the Baptist churches in Italy in a particularly sensitive field" and is "likely to pave the way for further developments."

The agreement holds special significance for Baptists. "As the number of Baptists in Italy is very small, only in a few marriages are both spouses Baptists. In fact Baptists often marry Catholics and this becomes an interchurch marriage," states an accompanying document released by the UCEBI. "In order to clarify the situation, it has become necessary to reach an agreement between the Baptist Union and the Catholic Church."

There are approximately 6,400 Baptists who hold membership within the 116 churches of the UCEBI. In contrast, more than 87 percent of the population of more than 60 million in Italy identify themselves as Roman Catholic.

For the full release: http://www.bwanet.org/default.aspx?pid=1119

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