If a woman is Roman Catholic, and a man is from Kerala, from the Malankara Orthodox Syrian church, and they wish to marry, does the woman need to convert to Syrian Orthodoxy? According to the Syrian Orthodox church, can she marry him while remaining a Roman Catholic and planning to raise their children as Catholics?


3 Answers 3


According to the Catholic Church's canon law on mixed marriages,

1983 Can. 1124 Without express permission of the competent authority, a marriage is prohibited between two baptized persons of whom one is baptized in the Catholic Church or received into it after baptism and the other of whom is enrolled in a Church or ecclesial community not in full communion with the Catholic Church.

The Syrian Orthodox are not in communion with the Catholic Church, since the latter considers them schismatic.

According to the Syrian's norms,

The liturgical minister should be the parish priest of the church where the marriage is celebrated, or his delegate from the same ecclesial communion.


There is to be no joint celebration of marriage by the ministers of both Churches.


Syrian Orthodox partner is to be reminded that he or she has to commit him/herself to imparting to their children proper Orthodox formation, to the extent possible and in agreement with his/her partner.

According to Catholic canon law, the first two points are possible, provided it is a Catholic priest and Catholic church. The last point is even more explicitly rejected in the older, 1917 formulation of Can. 1124 cited above:

1917 Can. 1060 Most severely does the Church prohibit everywhere that marriage be entered into by two baptized persons, one of whom is Catholic, and the other belonging to a heretical or schismatic sect; indeed, if there is a danger of perversion to the Catholic spouse and children, that marriage is forbidden even by divine law.

Also, regarding baptism, the Catholic Church requires that

Can. 868 §1. … 2/ there must be a founded hope that the infant will be brought up in the Catholic religion…

Thus, although certain things may be permissible on the side of the Syrians, the Catholic Church is very cautious regarding mixed marriages, as they can be very spiritually dangerous to all those involved.

  • In other words, the only resolution that does not break canon law on either side, is for one of the partners to convert? Jan 23, 2016 at 20:15
  • @Geremia I've slightly modified your quote from canon 1124 to reflect the motu proprio "Omnium in mentem" of Benedict XVI, 2009. Jan 24, 2016 at 0:05
  • @DickHarfield The spiritual danger of mixed marriages is warned about in Holy Scripture, as early as Gen. 6:2-3, where, right before God sends the Flood, He punishes man by reducing his lifespan to 120 years because "the sons of God [=the faithful] seeing the daughters of men [=heretics], that they were fair, took to themselves wives out of all, which they had chosen"—viz., the faithful had mixed marriages with heretics. The theme of God's hatred of mixed marriages appears again with Moses's flock (e.g., Deut. 7) and St. Paul in 2 Cor. 6:14: "Bear not the yoke with infidels. …"
    – Geremia
    Jan 24, 2016 at 5:26
  • @DickHarfield The reason I mention spiritual danger is because that's the rationale for the law in the first place.
    – Geremia
    Jan 24, 2016 at 20:37
  • @DickHarfield Regarding your "in other words" the answer is in part No. I can't speak to Syriac rules, but on the Catholic side a Catholic may marry a non-Catholic in a valid marriage if the dispensation is granted via the cases addressed in Canon Law. My own marriage is an example, as my wife was RCC and I was not. We got married in a Catholic Church after a variety of counseling and doing things with the priest, pre cana, etc. Core to getting the dispensation was my agreeing that the children being raised Catholic. (they were). Feb 3, 2016 at 21:04

The Association of Interchurch Families, England, has published a copy of the following First Trilateral Agreement on Interchurch Marriages between the Catholic Church and the Malankara Syrian Orthodox Church (1994).

The Agreement states The Malankara Syrian Orthodox Church is an autonomous church under the authority of the Syrian Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch. It is thus one of those Eastern churches which the Roman Catholic Church recognises as close in faith to itself.

The Malankara Syrian Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church state they are agreed on the following considerations and norms (my emphasis):

Our two churches accept the sacredness and indissolubility of the sacramental bond of marriage and consider the conjugal relationship as an expression of the above communion and a means to achieve self­effacing mutual love and freedom from selfishness which was the cause of the fall of humanity.

In this theological perspective, taking into account the question of the marriages between the members of our two churches, we consider it a matter of our pastoral concern to provide the following directives.

Our two churches desire to foster marriages within the same ecclesial communion and consider this the norm. However, we have to accept the pastoral reality that interchurch marriages do take place. When such occasions arise, both churches should facilitate the celebration of the sacrament of matrimony in either church, allowing the bride/bridegroom the right and freedom to retain her/his own ecclesial communion, by providing necessary information and documents. On the occasion of these celebrations, the couple as well as their family members belonging to these two churches are allowed to participate in the Holy Eucharist in the church where the sacrament of matrimony is celebrated. We consider it also the great responsibility of the parents to pay special attention to impart to the extent possible and in mutual accord proper ecclesial formation to their children in full harmony with the tradition of the ecclesial communion to which they have to belong.


According to this Agreement, the Roman Catholic bride can retain her Catholic faith and the couple can even participate jointly in the eucharistic celebration on special occasions when this joint celebration is socially required.


The Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church is a break-away part of the universal Catholic Church and was formed after the Coonan Cross Oath , taken on 3 January 1653. It was a public avowal by members of the Saint Thomas Christian community of Kerala, India that they would not submit to Portuguese dominance in ecclesiastical and secular life. The swearing of the oath was a major event in the history of the Saint Thomas Christian community and marked a major turning point in its relations with the Portuguese colonial forces. The oath resulted in the breaking up of 54 years of Portuguese Padroado (Patronage) Jurisdiction over the Malankara Syrian Church, started with the synod of Diamper in 1599 A.D. convoked by the Portuguese Archbishop Dom Alexio De Menezes. While it is true that Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church does not accept the supremacy of the Pope, there are many common practices among the Roman Syrian Catholic Church of Kerala and the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church. In fact, there is a rite in the Roman Catholic Church of Kerala called the Malankara Catholic rite (of members who had 'returned' from the Orthodox Syrian Church) which accepts the supremacy of the Pope and freely enter into matrimonial relationship with the Roman Syrian Catholics.

Reverting to the question, the Roman Catholic Church of Kerala has been permitting its members to enter into matrimonial relationship with a non-Roman Catholic believer provided that the member gives an undertaking that he/she will raise the children in Roman Catholic faith. Whether the Malankara Orthodox Church permits such marriages, can be answered better by its members. Hope someone is listening !

  • 2
    The first paragraph was very useful historical information that allowed e to research further. It is a pity you did not actually answer the question, but because of your historical information, I was able to do so. Jan 24, 2016 at 21:04
  • @DickHarfield It is actually incorrect information. In Kerala there were one single Eastern Syrian church under the Chaldean Patriarch of Iraq. They had no relations with Catholic church. When Portughese invaded, they tried to bring this church under Romain Catholic church. They ruled the church for around 52 years. There was internal resistance against this in the church and the people who resisted this vowed not to accept pope or Roman church. Later that faction splitted again multiple times. Jan 10, 2023 at 15:47
  • @DickHarfield Two of them came back to Catholic church (Syro Malabar under the leadership of a priest called Parambil Chandy who became Catholic bishop named "Alexander de campo", Syro Malankara under the leadership of an orthodox Bishop called Ivanios). Three became orthodox factions (Jacobite - Who accepts Syriac orthodox Patriarch, Orthodox - Who accepts local head of Catholicate, Malabar Independent Syrian - Accepts local bishop as head and is a separate orthodox church). One became reformed (Marthoma - Accepts local head and more inclined towards Anglicanism) Jan 10, 2023 at 15:50
  • @DickHarfield one became fully anglican (Continuing as a diocese [Madhya Kerala] in Church of South India) and one became Chaldean (East Syriac Church / Chaldean Church ) under the universal Patriarch of the Chaldean Syrian church Jan 10, 2023 at 15:51

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