A six-month old boy born to a Catholic family in the city has not been issued a baptism certificate because his father’s former marriage is yet to be annulled by the Metropolitan Tribunal of the Archdiocese of Bombay.
The child’s father, Clifford Rebello, 42, obtained a civil divorce from his former wife in the Family Court in Bandra in 2008 after which he applied for an annulment by approaching the tribunal set up by the Archdiocese of Bombay under the Canon Law, in 2010.
“Since I had already sought a legal divorce by mutual consent, authorities in the tribunal assured me that the annulment procedure would take not more than six months to be completed,” said Rebello, who subsequently got married for the second time in the court following the civil procedures. “Despite keeping in constant touch with the authorities and priests in the tribunal, I was not called for counselling. Thus, I decided to move on in life, get married and start a family,” he added.
A year after marriage, Rebello’s second wife, who also belongs to the Roman Catholic community, gave birth to a boy in September 2011 and applied for a baptism certificate, which was refused by the church. Baptism is a Christian rite of admission into the Christian Church. It is called a Sacrament and an ordinance of Jesus Christ.
“We have approached the authorities concerned, but were denied the certificate. We want our son to be accepted by the community because he is legally our child,” he added.
Father Savio Fernandes, spokesperson of the Archdiocese of Bombay said that the religious annulment was independent of a civil divorce. “When a Catholic gets married, it is a sacrament that they promise to fulfil till the end of their life. This sacrament once undertaken is beyond the couple,” said Father Fernandes. “It is only when the annulment is issued that the couple is free to get remarried. In this case, by not having received a religious annulment, the second marriage is not recognised by the church. Hence, the baptism was denied,” he said. At present, the tribunal has approximately 30 annulment petitions that are awaiting a decision.
“We adopt a holistic approach while issuing an annulment. The process is longer than a civil divorce because we consider reconciliation to be a very important aspect,” said Dr Yolande Pereira, marriage counsellor, Archdiocese of Bombay. “During the course of this decision, we meet both the parties involved, discuss their grievances and also undertake their psychological analysis. The time taken to complete the procedure is dependent on the parameters of the case.”