Monday,23 July, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1231, (29 January - 4 February 2015)
Monday,23 July, 2018
Issue 1231, (29 January - 4 February 2015)

Ahram Weekly

Egypt’s churches unite to oppose civil marriage

Differences between Egyptian churches over civil marriage have been settled, writes Michael Adel

Al-Ahram Weekly

The Orthodox, Catholic and Anglican churches in Egypt have agreed to recognise only marriages performed by the respective churches, effectively placing civil marriage out of bounds for their congregations.

While the Orthodox and Catholic churches were always in accord over the matter, Anglican church leaders were divided until they resolved their differences during a meeting of Anglican community leaders last week.

The meeting discussed the civil marriage bill proposed by the Ministry of Transitional Justice and concluded that the Anglican church would join its Orthodox and Catholic counterparts in not recognising civil marriages as a canonical union.

The issue surfaced in mid-November after Egypt’s churches forwarded proposals for amending the personal status law for Christians to the Ministry of Transitional Justice. In response, the ministry fine-tuned the draft law’s wording and definition of terms but also added new clauses pertaining to civil marriage.

Orthodox and Catholic Church leaders were angered by the Ministry of Transitional Justice’s failure to consult them before the section on civil marriage was added to the draft. On 24 November, representatives from Egyptian churches met at St. Mark’s Coptic Orthodox Cathedral to discuss the proposed law.

The three-hour meeting concluded with agreement on all the draft’s provisions except those relating to civil marriage and divorce. The addition of an annex was mooted as a possible compromise before Pope Tawadros II managed to persuade the head of the Anglican community to approve the bill, with the exception of the civil marriage section.

Tawadros argued that explicit mention of civil marriage would leave the law open to legal challenges, given that Article 3 of the constitution specifies that Christians be governed by their own religious laws in matters pertaining to personal status and religious affairs.

“To accept civil marriage is tantamount to recognition by the Church of the codification of adultery ... it would reflect support for the secularist trend and cannot be accepted in Egypt,” he is reported to have said.

Civil marriage is a contract between two partners, certified by two witnesses in a court of law and officially notarised and entered into the public record. It eliminates religious barriers that might otherwise prevent a man and woman from sharing a conjugal life.

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