WASHINGTON - Study after study has confirmed that those who are involved in religion and those who are married are healthier, physically and mentally happier and live longer than those who are not.

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VATICAN CITY - Pope Francis has appointed a special commission to look at ways to make it easier for Roman Catholics to dissolve their marriages in the eyes of the Church.

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VATICAN CITY - Two weeks before the start of an extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the family, the Vatican announced the formation of a special commission to reform the process of granting marriage annulments.

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VATICAN CITY - Presiding over the wedding of 20 couples in St. Peter's Basilica, Pope Francis celebrated marriage as the union of a man and woman playing complementary roles during their common journey through life.

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September 11, 2014

The question of divorce

In late August, shortly after my wife and I celebrated our anniversary, the secretary-general of the Italian Bishops Conference, signalled a possible massive change in Church teaching on marriage. 

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A proposal that marriages should have a trial period has received a lot of media attention but the notion runs afoul of what marriage is all about, particularly for Catholics.

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ROME  - Anna Ferretti has been married for more than 40 years, and she and her husband are the proud parents of four children. There’s only one catch: Her husband is a Catholic priest.

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Sudanese Christians have condemned the sentencing of a Christian woman to death by hanging after she married a Christian man.

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ROME - Catholic politicians and judges who support laws in conflict with Church teaching on abortion, euthanasia, marriage and related issues commit "sacrilege" and cause "grave scandal" if they receive Communion, said the U.S. cardinal who heads the Vatican's highest court.

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Pope Francis likes to say that he prefers to raise questions rather than issue edicts or change doctrine, and he has certainly generated plenty of debate with his off-the-cuff remarks about gays and his cold-call chats on topics like divorce and Communion, as happened recently with a woman in Argentina.

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MANCHESTER, England - Members of Britain's House of Commons voted, 400-175, to allow same-sex marriage, pushing a controversial piece of legislation closer to becoming law.

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VATICAN CITY - A lack of faith in God can damage marriage, even to the point of affecting its validity, Pope Benedict XVI said.

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TORONTO - Being married matters to the health of mothers and possibly to the health of their children, a new study by Marcelo Urquia has found.

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TORONTO - It’s one thing to have a good marriage, it’s another thing to have a great one, and that’s what a Marriage Encounter weekend can offer.

“You really are disconnected from the world for a weekend and investing in your relationship,” said David Adams, co-county co-ordinator for the English Toronto district of Worldwide Marriage Encounter with his wife, Lucy. “Really the basis of the weekend is to help couples learn a communication technique called dialoguing.”

This is done by essentially sequestering a group of couples, in the case of the upcoming Nov. 2-4 weekend at Mississauga’s Four Points Sheraton, and having them discuss specific topics with their significant others.

Each topic is first discussed in front of the group of participating couples by one of the presenting couples who have already completed the regular week and a more intensive training version. These presentations last between 30 and 40 minutes.

Twelve topics of discussion are presented during the weekend after which all participants privately reflect on their personal feelings regarding the topic. These reflections are then shared with the respective spouses.

“It’s more than just the topic, it’s about being able to listen, to get the feelings behind the topic,” said David Adams.

“It’s really about understanding who you each are.”

Topics include defining the type of listener you are, determining the personality of your partner and sex.

“Each topic follows each other so beautifully and by the time you get to the end, which is the sacrament, it’s like this yearning to really almost make that new commitment to each other, that bigger commitment,” said Lucy Adams. “It just gives (couples) a whole program to experience other couples openly sharing their lives and vulnerabilities.”

But it doesn’t end on the Sunday. The group is encouraged to establish a sharing circle.

According to Lucy Adams, about 80 per cent of couples successfully establish these groups with a small percentage of those who do not returning for a second weekend.

These groups meet monthly and practice the dialogue technique. This strengthens the ability to communicate and in turn the marriage.

“It allows couples that were together, in a very condensed and simplified format, to continue that weekend,” said David Adams. “We’d like to see couples continue to be connected with the Worldwide Marriage Encounter community and keep it alive in their marriage.”

Worldwide Marriage Encounter, the facilitating organization of the weekends, began in Spain with Fr. Gabriel Calvo in 1961. By the end of 1967 Marriage Encounter weekends had begun in North America starting in New York. Worldwide Marriage Encounter is active in more than 90 countries, in a variety of languages and focus on different faiths, but all have a consistent format.

“There might be some regional subtleties but the whole format and the desire behind it are consistent,” said David Adams.

Although the weekends co-ordinated by the Adams are Roman Catholic based, inter-faith couples are still encouraged to come — David Adams was an Anglican when he attended in the spring of 1995 but has since converted to the Catholic faith.

For those interested in the November weekend, or one scheduled for April 19-21, call Cora or Mike Bryce at (905) 896-2958.

Published in Vatican

HAMILTON, ONT. - What is the secret to a long and happy marriage? Communication and being able to understand each other’s point of view, say Eugene and Regina Jasin. They should know — the couple, natives of Lithuania, are celebrating their 70th wedding anniversary this year.

They were among 475 couples recognized by the diocese of Hamilton for celebrating 25, 40, 50 and 60 or more years of married life in 2012 during the annual Wedding Anniversary Mass at the Cathedral of Christ the King on Sept. 9. The Mass was celebrated by Hamilton Bishop Douglas Crosby.

The Jasins said although seven decades have passed, they cannot remember one time when they had a serious argument. This is despite the fact they have experienced some terrible stresses, such as fleeing for Germany on horseback with their infant daughter in the face of the communist takeover of their land during the Second World War.

“The main thing you have to understand is the other person, because it’s not exactly the same as what you’re thinking,” said Eugene. “The other person has different thoughts, so you have to accept what someone else thinks and talk it over.”

Ron and Mary Smithson were at the Mass having celebrated their 61st wedding anniversary just the day before. They have been imparting their wisdom about married life to couples for well over two decades as founding members of the marriage preparation course in their parish of St. Francis Xavier in Stoney Creek, Ont.

“We were busy all our lives and didn’t have a lot of material wealth, but we had a lot of love and a lot of family,” said Mary.

“We always worked together raising the family; it wasn’t just her job or my job,” added Ron. “It was our job and that’s the way we looked at life all the way. We’ve had some good times and bad times, but we get through them all. One of the blessings is we were married on Sept. 8 … that’s Our Lady’s birthday and that’s someone who has been in our life all along.”

The Smithsons point to compromise, openness, honesty and not emphasizing material goods as key aspects to a successful marriage.

“Marriage is about compromise. What you were before you were married and what you are after is going to change. But both of you change,” said Ron.

During his homily, Crosby said the couples in the church served as a testament and witness to God’s goodness and love.

“Today is a day of celebration, a celebration of enduring love and fulfilled commitment,” he said. “It is both a reminder and a renewal of the promises made on the day you married many years ago.”

He added that each couple present was a living reminder of God’s love and its permanence. “Your marriages tell all of us, but especially young people, that lasting love is possible,” he said.

Crosby spent some two hours in the parish hall after the Mass, meeting each of the couples and posing for photos with them.

Teresa Hartnett, director of the diocese’s Family Ministry Office, said the Wedding Anniversary Mass has been held annually for some three decades and is a reflection of the Church’s desire to honour a foundational vocational aspect of the Catholic faith.

“It’s just continued to grow and grow every year,” she said, adding the event is also a part of the diocese’s overall commitment to strengthening family life, in addition to the Retrouvaille program for troubled marriages, Marriage Encounter weekends, marriage enrichment evenings and referrals for counselling.

(Gosgnach is a freelance writer in Hamilton, Ont.)

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