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Pope Francis Calls for “New Catechumenate” in Marriage Preparation

Catholic News Agency, January 21, 2017

Pope Francis has again stressed the pressing need for effective education and preparation for the sacrament of marriage—not only to guard against invalid marriages, but also to strengthen the faith of the couple as they prepare for the unique blessings and challenges of married life.

“The goal of this preparation consists in helping engaged couples to know and to live the reality of marriage as it is intended to be celebrated, so that it is possible to do so not only validly and lawfully, but also fruitfully, so that they are able to make this celebration a stage of their journey of faith,” Pope Francis said.

“In this spirit, I would reiterate the need for a ‘new catechumenate’ in preparation for marriage,” he said in his January 21 address to the judges of the Roman Rota at the Vatican’s Clementine Hall.

“That is, as for the baptism of adults the catechumenate is part of the sacramental process, so the preparation for marriage must become an integral part of all sacramental marriage procedure, as an antidote that prevents the increase of invalid or tenuous marriage celebrations.”

The newly-translated Order of Celebrating Matrimony likewise emphasizes the pastoral preparation for marriage. Whereas the first edition of the Rite contained a brief introduction of only 18 paragraphs, the second edition expands the theological and pastoral directions to 44 paragraphs, including instructions on the couple’s preparation.

“The engaged couple,” says the Rite, “having been reminded, if appropriate, of the fundamental elements of Christian doctrine…should be given catechesis not only about the Church’s teaching on Marriage and the family but also about the Sacrament and its rites, prayers, and readings, so that they may be able to celebrate it thoughtfully and fruitfully.

“In conducting the preparation, pastors, taking into account prevailing attitudes toward Marriage and the family, should endeavor to evangelize the couple’s authentic and mutual love in the light of faith. Even the requirements of law for contracting a valid and licit Marriage can serve to promote a living faith and fruitful love between the couple, ordered toward establishing a Christian family” (17, 20).