the 7th dialogue between Roman Catholic and Reformed Denominations in the U.S.A.

Interchurch families: the need to show respect for each other

13.06.2001

LOUISVILLE, USA, June 13 – He is Roman Catholic, she is Protestant, or vice-versa. They want to get married.

That’s fine, but in which church?

Who will perform the wedding ceremony?

And if they are both practicing Christians, where are they going to worship?

In which church tradition will their children be raised?

United in their daily life, will they be always separated at the Lord’s table?

These are some of the burning issues which have been dealt with by the 7th dialogue between Roman Catholic and Reformed denominations in the U.S.A. on interchurch families, whose final report is about to be published by Geneva Press.

The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is one of churches involved in the dialogue.

Two members of the Catholic-Reformed dialogue on interchurch families, the Rev. Lydia Veliko and Monsignor Alan Detscher, were the guest speakers Wednesday morning at the Ecumenical Breakfast of the 213th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A).

Detscher, a Catholic liturgist from Bridgeport, Ky. who is one of the contributors of the Presbyterian Book of Order, said that tensions between churches arise particularly on three occasions: the marriage, the baptism of children, and the Eucharist. The dialogue, he said, was a valuable opportunity to carefully listen to each other, trying to understand and clarify what the “other side” really wants to say. “Sometimes we use same words,” he said, “but mean different things, while in other cases, our vocabularies are completely different.” The role of clergy, said Detscher, is of vital importance for the spiritual life of interchurch families. The pastors from both churches need to be with these families. There is a great need, he concluded, to show respect for each other and each other’s tradition.

When dealing with the issue of interchurch marriages, said the Rev. Lydia Veliko, who is Ecumenical Officer for the United Church of Christ, what you really need to have is good theology combined with pastoral care. Both ministers should meet together with the couple for marriage counseling/preparation. Good theology is needed in order not to underestimate the existing differences, but one should never forget that these are not “abstract questions, but painful issues, lived by families in their daily experience,” she said. There is a great need, she added, “to listen very hard to each other. As a reformed Christian, I really want to know what it means to be inside a Catholic skin.”

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