16 February 2017

Re: Rite of Matrimony and Interfaith Catholic-Orthodox Marriages

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

On 30 December 2016 (the Feast of the Holy Family) changes to the Rite of Matrimony came into full force throughout the dioceses of the United States. Since that date, no other rite for the Sacrament of Matrimony is permitted to be used in the Diocese of Fairbanks. If you have not yet ordered a copy of the new ritual, please do so immediately. I would ask that once your new books have arrived that the old ones be removed from your offices and sacristies. Please remember that ritual books are not to be thrown out, but rather burned, for disposal.

For those who have not yet familiarized themselves with the new Rite of Matrimony, Fr. Robert Fath and Barbara Tolliver conducted an hour and half long training at St. Raphael parish offering an overview of the rite itself as well as a refresher on canonical marriage forms which must be completed when preparing a couple for marriage. A DVD copy of the seminar has been sent to the regional coordinators and is available through the chancery, but is also available on YouTube for those with internet access. It can be viewed at :

With the change in the Rite of Matrimony I would also like to inform you about a phone conference I had with His Grace the Rite Rev. David, Orthodox Bishop of Sitka and Alaska regarding the cooperation between our two Churches when dealing with inter-faith marriages of Catholic and Orthodox faithful. Bishop David and l both feel very strongly that it is important for our respective parishioners to maintain good standing with their Churches. Even though, sadly, there is still a separation between our Churches, we recognize the validity of each other's Sacraments. Our ways of dealing with inter-faith marriages are different, however, and must be kept in mind when preparing a mixed marriage couple. To that end, I am establishing the following policy regarding marriage between members of the Catholic and Orthodox Churches in the Diocese of Fairbanks.

1. Couples preparing for marriage must go through pre-marital preparation per established diocesan policy and all canonical paperwork and dispensations granted prior to the celebration of the Sacrament.

2. Inter-faith couples should only have one sacramental celebration. Since the Catholic Church has a system in place fo:: granting a dispensation from canonical form, couples should be encouraged to marry in the Orthodox Church after a dispensation from canonical form has been granted by the diocesan 'bishop or his delegate. The marriage should be recorded in the baptismal records of the Catholic's parish of baptism.

  1. If, for practical reasons, the marriage is not able to take place in the Orthodox Church it may be celebrated by a Catholic priest and the local Orthodox priest should be notified so that the couple can receive the proper blessing from the Orthodox Church.

Please note that a dispensation from canonical form can only be granted by the bishop or his delegate. Requests should be referred to Barbara Tolliver in the Tribunal Office.

Bishop David has also consented to allow Orthodox faithful who are in danger of death to receive the Sacraments of Anointing of the Sick, Reconciliation and Eucharist if there is no Orthodox priest available. This is only to be done in emergency situations and he has asked that the local Orthodox priest be informed when such a situation has occurred.

These new policies will take effect on the First Sunday of Lent, 5 March 2017. Any questions should be directed either to myself, Barbara Tolliver or Fr. Robert Fath.

Most Reverend Chad W. Zielinski
Catholic Bishop of Northern Alaska
Diocese of Fairbanks

Leigh A. Scarboro

File: Policy-Rite_of_Marriage_and_Interfaith_Catholic-Orthodox_Marriages.pdf