ASIA/CHINA - Marriage “without dowry” and birth support: Chinese Catholic communities face new challenges for families

Wednesday, 3 January 2024 local churches   family   marriage

Shijiazhuang (Agenzia Fides) - In the People's Republic of China, complex social processes linked to modernity call into question the reality of everyday family life and leading to worrying consequences such as low birth rates. The younger generations are influenced by economic, cultural and psychological factors that seem to weaken the will to start new families and bring children into the world. The Catholic communities in China also see themselves challenged by these phenomena and are launching pastoral initiatives that take the situation into account and try to cope with the new emergencies and thus also contribute to the harmonious development of Chinese society. In the Diocese of Baoding (Hebei Province), an initiative that the Catholic information website calls "marriage without a dowry" was celebrated in the presence of Bishop Francis An Shuxin.
In China, especially in the more remote and less developed rural areas, the practice of requiring the bride's family to give their daughter a dowry of an economic nature (money, bank account, gold and jewelry, etc.) before a marriage is still valid. This custom, which is linked to the social realities of the past, in many cases represents a burden on families and an objective obstacle to marriage. Depending on local customs, a "minimum amount" is also defined for the amount of the dowry. The "average" dowry is about 180 thousand yuan (equivalent to 23 thousand euros), with peaks of up to 300 thousand yuan. In Baoding, two young Catholics decided to marry "without a dowry," thereby making public their intention to break with the ancient custom. Their choice, appreciated by all, was recognized by the local community as a testimony to how faith can liberate from the constraints of secular culture. The two young couples come from families with a long-standing Catholic tradition. They attended marriage preparation courses offered in parishes, where they were helped to recognize that the sacrament of marriage has its own character, different from relationships based on economic interests and contracts, and that "the blessing of God is more important than any amount of money". "Even if we cannot change certain customs," the couple said, according to the Catholic news site, "we can show through our decision what the true essence of marriage celebrated in the Catholic faith is for us." Also in the Diocese of Ningbo, for some time now, there have been some pastoral initiatives that seek to address the challenge posed by the decline in the birth rate, which is also linked to the crisis of family life. On Christmas Eve, the Cixi parish offered a material contribution to support the obligations of parenthood to 23 Catholic families who had their second and third child in the last two years. "We hope,"said Father Xia Jingxiao, "that more Catholic families will respond positively to the call to follow the example of the Holy Family and create holy families." The decision to provide financial support to families with two and three children in the Ningbo Diocese dates back to before 2010. The Bishop and the priests of the diocese had the foresight to take into account the current situation of society and to take initiatives that also respond to the calls of the civil authorities to address the birth crisis and the aging population. The amount for individual households, which in the past was between 800 and 1,500 yuan, was increased this year to 2,000 yuan (about 255 euros) for families with two children and 4,000 yuan (about 510 euros) for families with three children.
A real concern for the material problems of civil society are also the new charitable actions for the elderly, such as those carried out by the parish of Fushan (Hangzhou Diocese) for the benefit of the 42 guests of a nursing home in the neighborhood during the Christmas period . A concrete way to follow Jesus' call to "love your neighbor as yourself". (NZ) (Agenzia Fides, 3/1/2024)