Catholic priest at a Russian Orthodox wedding?

May a Catholic priest assist at a Russian Orthodox wedding if a member of his parish is the groom and he has converted to Russian Orthodoxy at the request of his bride-to-be (who is Orthodox) and her father (who is a Russian Orthodox priest)? A priest in our parish was asked to attend such a wedding and he said that while the marriage will be valid but illicit, his presence would not be appropriate. He said he would attend the reception instead. Thank you.

It depends on what you mean by “assist”. He can take no liturgical role, if that’s what you’re asking, at least from the Orthodox viewpoint.

From a Catholic standpoint, the Catholic Priest can not assist at a non Catholic wedding liturgically and perhaps he is right in his judgement to not even attend the wedding in order to not cause scandal.

As bpbasilphx already stated, from an Orthodox view the Catholic priest cannot take part in the actual ceremony. The Orthodox may permit him to offer a blessing after the ceremony has concluded, however.

Under normal circumstances, assuming all proper dispensations were obtained to marry a Non-Catholic in a Non-Catholic ceremony, the Catholic Church would likely not have a problem with the priest participating in some way (the Orthodox still might not allow it though, as noted above). In the case you describe, however, it would be highly inappropriate for a Catholic priest to be involved. To do so would be seemingly giving approval to apostacy and therefore the priest would be committing the sin of scandal, not to mention the sin of taking part in an illicit wedding. Why is the wedding illicit? Because even though the groom is no longer Catholic, he is still bound by Catholic law, which requires a dispensation to marry a Non-Catholic (even one as closely “related” as an Orthodox Christian). However, because he has voluntarily removed himself from the Church, he is unable to request one unless he returns.

So, in this case, while it might be acceptable to attend the reception, it would be inappropriate to take part in the ceremony, even if the EO bishop were to allow it.

By “assist” I think the family had hoped that he could read the Gospel or take some active part in the Liturgy, but Father knows that this may not be possible. Furthermore, as others stated here in their replies, he does not want to cause scandal by witnessing a marriage where one of his own former parishioners (and whose own mother is the Director of Religious Education in the parish!!!) has formally left the Catholic Church.
Thank you everyone for your replies.

By “assist” I assume that the initial post meant to “concelibrate” or “co-celebrate” the ceremony.

This is possible in some geographical regions common to both Orthodox and Catholics as with some rites in the middle east where certain apostolic Catholic and apostolic non-Catholic groups have intermixed extended families. Regular intercommunion happens even at weekly celebrations of the Divine Liturgy and could almost be called commonplace.

They sometimes even concelebrate at times such as weddings, funerals, and other solemnities, but this usually requires the permission of both bishops in authority. I do not believe that the Russian Orthodox are open to such “concelebration/co-celebration” at this time.

A wonderful woman I was once engaged to was born into a Coptic Orthodox family. Her parents moved to Canada before her birth. She was born in Montreal at a time when there was no Coptic Orthodox Church yet established there.

When the Byzantine Orthodox were less than inviting and hospitable to them they chose this Arab Catholic Rite as their home parish. As a result she was baptized and confirmed in the Melkite Catholic Church. Later, when the Coptic Orthodox Church established a parish they returned to their home communion and she continued her worship in the home church of her family.

The Melkite Church (Syrian Greek Catholic) offers communion to all Catholics and Orthodox in good standing without prejudice. Just this past weekend I participated in one such event at the funeral memorial of a Melkite woman which included Syrian Orthodox and Melkites (as her extended family includes many members of both groups).

We should all pray that we come together as Christ would have us do.

We all could learn a great deal from this somewhat localized expression of apostolic Christian unity (I know I have) and hope it spreads all over the world.

Yours in Christ,


PS - The “wonderful woman” became a nun…I told you she was wonderful. In fact, it was through her example that I was introduced to and sought out the Melkite Church of which I am now a member. God bless you, Sherin, wherever you are.

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