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Bishop: Church Needs to Help Women in Polygamous Marriages
Cindy Wooden
Source: Catholic News Service
Published: Saturday, October 10, 2009
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VATICAN CITY (CNS)—The Catholic Church in Africa needs to make special provisions for women who want to join the church, but are denied the sacraments because they are in polygamous marriages, a bishop from Ghana said.

Bishop Matthew Kwasi Gyamfi of Sunyani told the Synod of Bishops for Africa Oct. 8 that, because of a tradition established long before Christianity arrived on the continent, "many African women find themselves in polygamous marriages through no fault of their own."

The bishop's speech came during an abbreviated session of the synod, which met only for an hour so that the bishops and Pope Benedict XVI could attend a concert, "Youth Against War," marking the 70th anniversary of the outbreak of World War II and the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Bishop Gyamfi said the church's practice of baptizing married people and admitting them to the other sacraments only if they are part of a monogamous relationship creates enormous difficulties for many women.

"The church needs to address this painful and unpleasant situation in Africa by giving some special privileges to women" who "through no fault of their own have become victims of polygamous marriages," the bishop said.

Especially if they have children, women in polygamous marriages face social rejection and serious economic hardship if they try to end their relationships with their husbands, the bishop said.

In addition, he said, "in cases where women have walked away without the consent of the husbands and the extended families, the church has been cited for injustice, insecurity, breaking up families, fomenting disunity and destroying social cohesion."

The real difficulties for the women and their children have discouraged many women from formally joining the church, Bishop Gyamfi said.

"The result is that, in some parts of Africa, many women attend church regularly and actively participate in all church activities, but are denied the sacraments of initiation, reconciliation and marriage," not to mention "the many denied fitting Christian burial for not being baptized," he said.

Receiving the women into the church without making them leave their husbands "will enable them to share in the peace and reconciliation offered by the compassion and peace of Our Lord Jesus Christ who came to call sinners and not the self-righteous," Bishop Gyamfi said.

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