How to Strengthen an Interfaith Relationship

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Cross-cultural awareness and sensitivity is profoundly important in diverse communities such as New York – especially when it comes to issues of faith. In this series of blog posts, Catholic Charities explores the many dimensions of interfaith relations, and the ways in which social services organizations can take a leadership role in this area, so that we can create positive, productive, and charitable communities.

By Richard Bertin

The most influential interfaith relationship there is doesn’t always come between nations, governments, and organizations. Sometimes it’s just between two people. For many of these cases you’ll find that despite a couple’s varying religious beliefs, love is the ultimate mediator that makes the relationship work. Sure, I know that sounds a bit fluffy, but it’s true.

On the Sirius/XM radio program, JustLove, host Monsignor Kevin Sullivan, Catholic Charities Executive Director, discussed the topic of interfaith marriage with Monsignor Desmond Vella of the Marriage Tribunal Office, which investigates marriage nullification claims. Monsignor Vella, who has provided marriage counsel to couples for more than 20 years through the Metropolitan Tribunal of the Archdiocese of New York, spoke about how important it is for an interfaith couple to find commonality with each other. Although it is helpful when that unifying bond comes from religion, what is even more important than sharing the same faith is for couples to mutually respect each other’s spirituality, to understand and accept differences, and above all, to have unconditional love for each other.

Since this can be easier said than done, Msgr. Vella offered a few tips to guide interfaith relationships, helpful for both young couples and those who are already married. Share your own tips in the comments field below.

  1. Realize that an interfaith relationship offers the opportunity for dialogue and understanding of different faiths, including your own. Your respective faiths can even be strengthened.
  1. The more commonality you have with your partner, the better chance of success and happiness. When you don’t share the same faith, commonality can be found in others areas such as social, educational, economic, and recreational interests.
  1. Differences shouldn’t be swept under a rug. They must be talked about and recognized. Working through an interfaith marriage is a two-fold process that takes work but it can lead to a strengthening of commitment to each other.
  1. Even if one person may not be as fervent in their faith, other social differences will still need to be worked through. These differences can arise in everyday tasks such as cleaning, cooking, and observing holidays.
  1. A child’s religious settings need to be discussed early. However, parents should be open to ways of sharing their different faiths with their child. Enculturation shouldn’t be feared. In fact, sharing the beauty of other religions can lead to forming a more tolerant and spiritual person.
  1. Differences shouldn’t be feared.  Deep-rooted religious beliefs can lead to a reconsideration of marriage. This is why communication and open dialogue is so important. Issues that aren’t addressed early on will not go away – they will eventually appear more powerfully and perhaps uncomfortably in the future.

Do you have your own tips for a successful interfaith relationship? Share them with us in the comments below.

Listen to the full interview with Monsignor Vella.

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