Tuesday 16 October 2012

Celibate Indian priests turn matchmakers

Matrimonial website run by Catholic priests gains popularity in Kerala, helping Christians to find partners.

Priesthood in the Catholic Church is synonymous with celibacy, but that hasn't prevented some priests in the southern Indian state of Kerala from hooking up men and women for conjugal life.

The "men of the cloth" have set up a matrimonial website exclusively for the Christian community, discounting popular belief that the clergy knows little - or nothing - about the intricacies of love and marriage.

Directly managed by Catholic priests, the portal chavaramatrimony.com is the "most trustworthy and reliable" when it comes to matchmaking, according to Subin George, an assistant professor at a polytechnic college in Angamali, who found his wife through the service.

More than 10,000 weddings have taken place thanks to the website since its launch in 1996, Johnson C Abraham, the site's executive director, told Al Jazeera.

"We had only 10-15 registrations when we started and now here we stand as one of the most trusted and largest matrimonial services in the state."

- Johnson C Abraham, executive director

Headquartered in Kochi, the portal is named after Blessed Kuriakose Elias Chavara - the co-founder of the first congregation for men in the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church which is now known as Caramelites of Mary Immaculate (CMI).

Chavara toiled for the enrichment of the Christian community and was beatified on February 8, 1986 by Pope John Paul II during his papal visit to India. His vision "good families resemble heavenly abode on Earth" is the motto behind the ISO-certified portal.

"We continue with Chavara's ideologies … This is a service, not a business," Father Roby Kannanchira, CMI, director, told Al Jazeera.

About 30,000 viewers visit the website each day from more than 100 countries, said Father Kannanchira.

Christianity is India's third-largest religion with about 24 million followers, or 2.3 per cent of India's population.

Operating from 13 branches in Kerala - with plans to open another in a yet-to-be named country - the priests' commitment to building strong families has resulted in Kerala's oldest and largest matrimonial service.

"We had only 10-15 registrations when started, and now here we stand as one of the most trusted and largest matrimonial services in the state," Abraham said.

He said referrals from those satisfied with their partners have helped grow the service. "Part of our success lies in our old clients and our popularity owes the word of mouth, rather than any marketing strategy," said Abraham.

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