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This page last updated 23 October 2006
Anglicans Online last updated 20 August 2000

Letters to AO

EVERY WEEK WE PUBLISH a selection of letters we receive in response to something you've read at Anglicans Online. Stop by and have a look at what other AO readers are thinking.

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Letters from 16 to 22 October 2006

Like all letters to the editor everywhere, these letters are the opinions of the writers and not Anglicans Online. We publish letters that we think will be of interest to our readers, whether we agree with them or not. If you'd like to write a letter of your own, click here.

Marriage in the EU

The Boston Globe has got it wrong about the situation in Europe. It inaccurately describes the situation in FRANCE, and doesn't even approximate to the practice in any other country known to me.

In France, all people, irrespective of their religion or lack of religion, must have a civil marriage if they want the state to regard them as married. However, no priest, rabbi or imam regards a subsequent religious ceremony as a mere "blessing" of a civil ceremony — it is a wedding. So, if Jean-Claude and Marie-Claire have their civil ceremony at the town hall on Thursday and their religious ceremony on Saturday, premature sexual congress on Friday is a sin in the eyes of their parish priest, because they are not yet married by the Church. If Michel and Sandrine marry at the town hall, with no religious ceremony, and subsequently divorce, the church would not impose any requirement for an annulment before a subsequent church marriage for either of them.

In most other countries, at least some religious ceremonies are recognised by the state, with no need for a separate civil ceremony. In England, all C of E priests are automatically registrars of marriages, and most protestant ministers and (recently) RC priests elect to be registrars, as (I think) do rabbis. At Hindu, Sikh and Muslim weddings, either a registrar is present, or the couple have a separate civil marriage before or after the religious rite. The latter is, however, recognised as constituting the marriage from the religious standpoint.

In Spain, there was an extremely high profile case of the state's acceptance of both civil and religious marriages, with the Church not recognising a previous civil marriage as a bar to a church wedding. HRH the Prince of Asturias fell in love with Letizia Ortiz Rocasolano, a television presenter who had previously been married in a civil ceremony to a prof from her days as a doctoral student. The royal nuptials took place at a Pontifical High Mass celebrated by the Cardinal Archbishop of Madrid in his cathedral. (Compare and contrast the event in Windsor registry office!)

Alan Harrison
S. Mary's, Hayes, Diocese of London
West Drayton, Middlesex, UK
18 October 2006

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Earlier letters

We launched our 'Letters to AO' section on 11 May 2003. All published letters are in our archives.


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