A prayer for marriage

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The Independent Online

The leaders of the Roman Catholic church yesterday appealed for a lifelong commitment to marriage to become a formal part of the civil service.

And in a broader effort to strengthen the institution, Cardinal Basil Hume and his bishops called for the complex process for ending marriages to be matched by preparations for those intending to tie the knot. Speaking after the biannual bishops' conference in London, the Cardinal said it was important to ensure that the formal promises made at civil wedding ceremonies always explicitly referred to the legal definition of marriage.

While the marriage certificate was headed with this definition - "the union of one man and woman voluntarily entered into for life to the exclusion of all others" - it was an optional part of the service. "Nobody has to say it," he said. "We want it stated. It is the law of the land."

The bishops repeated their support for the Government' new Family Law Bill, which aims to make divorce more difficult. But they expressed concern that preparations for marriage did not receive the same attention as procedures for ending it.