An ecclesiastical divorce may be granted after a civil decree has been issued. However, the parish priest must make every effort to reconcile the couple and avert a divorce.
Should the priest fail to bring about a reconciliation, the party seeking the ecclesiastical divorce should address a petition to the Ecclesiastical Court of the Archdiocese stating the grounds for such an action. The petition must be accompanied by:
- A) the Decree Absolute of the civil divorce;
- B) a copy/certificate of the ecclesiastical marriage which is to be dissolved; and
- C) the set fees of the Ecclesiastical Court.
For more Information please contact the Secretary of the Ecclesiastical Court, The Revd. George Zafeirakos, Tel: 020-7485 2149
Statistical Note: For the years 1989-2008 and up to October 2009 there was a total of 1736 applications for Divorce. Most of the applicants were under thirty-five years of age. The reasons given were lack of co-operation and extra-marital affairs.
Metropolitan Kallistos of Diokleia, in his book, ‘The Orthodox Church’, writes:
“The Orthodox Church permits divorce and remarriage, quoting as its authority the text of Matthew 19:9, where Our Lord says: “If a man divorces his wife, for any cause other than unchastity, and marries another, he commits adultery.” Since Christ allowed an exception to His general ruling about the indissolubility of marriage, the Orthodox Church also is willing to allow an exception. Certainly Orthodoxy regards the marriage bond as in principle lifelong and indissoluble, and it condemns the breakdown of marriage as a sin and an evil. But while condemning the sin, the Church still desires to help the sinners and to allow them a second chance. When, therefore, a marriage has entirely ceased to be a reality, the Orthodox Church does not insist on the preservation of a legal fiction. Divorce is seen as an exceptional but necessary concession to human sin; it is an act of oikonomia (‘economy’ or dispensation) and of philanthropia (loving kindness). Yet although assisting men and women to rise again after a fall, the Orthodox Church knows that a second alliance can never be the same as the first; and so in the service for a second marriage several of the joyful ceremonies are omitted, and replaced by penitential prayers.
Orthodox Canon Law, while permitting a second or even a third marriage, absolutely forbids a fourth. In theory the Canons only permit divorce in cases of adultery, but in practice it is sometimes granted for other reasons as well.
One point must be clearly understood: from the point of view of Orthodox theology a divorce granted by the State in the civil courts is not sufficient. Remarriage in church is only possible if the Church authorities have themselves granted a divorce.”