Significance of M.E. Religious Synod called by Pope
- Dear All,The Middle East religious Synod called by Pope Benedict (Oct 10-25, 2010) should be seen as a positive sign of Catholic church to review its so called infalliable religious laws in a spirit of emulation,to study other religious laws and an attempt to reach consensus on certain civil family laws,as Middle East Catholics say the religious laws of other Christian denominations and religions are better and more transparent than their Catholic Church laws.Syriac Orthodox church is represented by HE.Mor Gregorios Yohanna of Aleppo.Jill Hamilton,the duchess of Hamilton has been staying in Jerusalem for some years
studying the religious law systems of different denominations and has published her thesis on the Dark side of Legal Pluralism, which has opened the eyes of West and Catholic Church to a great extent.She had been to India and has interviewed Nehru,Indira Gandhi..etcFrom the writings of Jill Hamilton 'Religious laws affecting Middle East Christians'Quote
"If a couple are divorcing or separating in Damascus the outcome is decided by holy law. It is the same for all Muslims, Christians and Jews in Beirut , Baghdad , Jerusalem or Cairo . With the exception of Turkey , there is civil family law in the Middle East . Nor are there register offices for marriages or civil courts for divorce. Citizens have to attend courts run by kadis, priests, bishops or rabbis
Religious laws have exclusive jurisdiction in marriage, divorce, separation, child custody, alimony, maintenance, adoption, guardianship, etc. Catholics cannot terminate a marriage unless they find grounds for annulment. Only the Orthodox churches allow divorce.
Even though divorce and remarriage are now tolerated in most parts of the western world, the Christian courts are unlikely to be high on the agenda of the two-week conference of Middle Eastern Patriarchs and Church leaders, which began in Rome on Sunday. Alarmed at the drop in the number of Christians in the Middle East (from around 20% before the second world war to below 5%) Pope Benedict has convened a regional synod. Much has been written about the problems of Arab Christians in the region, but few analysts look to the multi-stranded Patriarchal system of Christian religious laws as a contributory reason for dissatisfaction among its 10-15 million Christians
Jerusalem, like the rest of Israel , has 14 different legal systems covering family law to accommodate the diverse faiths of its citizens. The Jews have one set of laws, so do the Muslims, but the Christian denominations have 10.
As opposed to the Sharia, Druze and Rabbinical courts, which are supervised by the Ministry of Justice, ecclesiastical courts have full “autonomy” . Judges are appointed by the churches alone. Unlike the Jews and Muslims, Christian courts have no websites. Nor do they publish precedents of cases or judgements, or allow court reporters or members of the public to attend court hearings.
The way Muslims are subjected to Sharia law is often regarded with distaste in western society, yet Sharia courts in Israel and the West Bank are a beacon of transparency compared to the Christian courts. It is difficult in some areas to even find basic facts, let alone the law used.
While this month’s Middle East Synod is much awaited, so are reforms to change this system – inherited from the Ottoman millet system, which recognised the autonomy of the Christian communities to run their own internal affairs, especially religious and civil matters".
From the desk of:-Bibu Philip Matthew;Vayaliparambil Pynadath