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Father Joe Fernandes
"We are preparing young couples for marriage"
 real 28k

Wednesday, 23 August, 2000, 14:07 GMT 15:07 UK
Indian church holds 'love classes'

By Sanjeev Srivastava in Bombay

A church in India's commercial capital Bombay has begun a unique effort to save marriages among the Christian community.

Each Sunday, couples attending the mass at the Victoria Church are handed out advice on sexuality and how to relate better to their spouse.

Christians praying in a church
The church hopes to revive marriages
Father Joe Fernandes says the church was concerned at the increasing number of divorces and wanted to help the couples.

"Given the pressures of modern-day life, young couples are finding it more and more difficult to cope with the stress of day to day life.

"It is putting a strain on relationships," he said.

Through his love classes, Father Joe helps couples deal with the strain and make the relationships work.

"In a way, we are trying to pre-empt problems," he says.

Classes

Couples attending the classes are told that marriages are sacrosanct - a life-long bond not to be broken.

Marriage vows
Divide housework

Live within your means

Give each other space
The practical aspects of marriage, like the division of duties within the household, living within the budget and giving space to one's spouse are discussed.

One session is also devoted to sexuality.

The priests may not be married themselves but they claim a fairly good understanding of the institution of marriage.

"It's something like going to the doctor," says Father Fernandes. "He does not have to suffer from a disease he is trying to cure."

Only in this case, the doctor's prescription is compulsory for those planning to tie the knot.

Mandatory

Anybody who wants a church wedding has to produce a certificate which says they have attended at least one love class.

Few see this as the church's interference in their personal lives.


A good marriage begins with accepting your spouse as she is

Francis Ferro
"Once you go through a session you realise it is more of a help and guidance rather than telling us what to do," says Aditi who is getting married in January.

The sessions also borrow from the experience of those who have had long, happy married lives.

"A good marriage begins with accepting your spouse as she is," says Francis Ferro, who has been married for 22 years.

"Remembering that she is a gift of God to you. Never do anything that will hurt her."

His wife Nancy blames lack of trust and insecurity among partners as the reason for breaking marriages.

The Victoria Church hopes that the experience of Nancy and Francis Ferro, together with its own love classes, will help marriages last longer.

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18 Aug 99 | South Asia
Indian women want more from their men
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