Bishop Mark Davies of Shrewsbury, England, presides over a Mass for marriage in his diocese on Oct. 14, 2023. / Credit: Simon Caldwell/St. Gabriel News and Media
London, England, Oct 21, 2023 / 07:00 am (CNA).
The institution of marriage is not merely in “cataclysmic decline” but is at risk of being eradicated altogether, a U.K. bishop has warned.
During a sermon on Oct. 14 at a Mass for a diocesan celebration of marriage, Bishop Mark Davies of Shrewsbury, England, told a congregation of married couples: “It is hard to imagine in little more than half a century the promises you made, the vocation you embraced would become more and more exceptional. So exceptional in these early years of this 21st century that most recent statistics show a 61% decrease of marriages in our land, the lowest number of couples entering marriage for almost two centuries, and the first time in our history that more children are born outside of marriage than in a married home.”
He continued: “The headlines do not seem to exaggerate when they speak not merely of a cataclysmic decline but of marriage disappearing in Britain. The social consequences of such a loss are only beginning to be worked out, not least for the well-being of children.”
Davies went on to speak optimistically of the hope Christian marriage offers, saying: “At a moment in our history when marriage is increasingly being lost sight of, the witness you have given simply by living the promises of marriage through every trial and difficulty is no small thing and today shines out more and more brightly.
“The Christian vocation of marriage stands out as an invitation to new generations to believe and set out along the same path: to have the courage to make the same awesome promises, to build a stable and loving home for their children by their very faithfulness, and with the same prayer that the Lord may protect their unity of heart and bring them to old age together.”
The Mass for marriage took place at St. Columba’s Church in Chester, northwest England.
During the Mass, the bishop said that between them the couples attending the Mass have amassed “1,275 years of marriage faithfully lived,” which he said was as an “incalculable good.”
Among the couples in attendance were Lloyd and Sheila Hayes of Romiley, Cheshire, who will celebrate 70 years of marriage this year. They were wed at ages 20 and 18 respectively and now have eight children, 23 grandchildren, and nine great-grandchildren.
According to the U.K. Office of National Statistics, in 2021 there were 113,505 divorces granted in England and Wales, a 9.6% increase compared with 2020, when there were 103,592 divorces.
According to the Marriage Foundation, a research body committed to investigating family breakdown in the U.K., by the age of 14, 46% of children are not living with both biological parents.