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Amicitia-extenditur-ad-extraneos marriage law and the concept of citizenship (1563-1789)

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Abstract

This paper analyses marriage a sa means by which strangers were accepted within the family. The primary sources consulted are works generally written by post-Tridentine Jesuit theologians. In medieval times, marriage represented a tellurian union whose primary objective was the procreation of offspring. A set of consanguinity regulations and been devised by the Church to prevent the consummation of marriage between kin groups and safeguard the health of infants Medieval society allowed divorce to husbands whose wives were believed unable to produce an heir. The adamant stand taken by the Catholic Church at the Council of Trent in support of marital union and against divorce undermined the importance of fertility in marriage. This stance jeopardised the Church's position vis-a-vis Lutheran and other protestant beliefs. This newly-emerging concept of marriage did not hinder the Catholic Church from continuing to sustain its belief in this union as friendship extended to strangers. The universality given to the marriage ritual by the Catholic Church contrasted with political developments in Europe. What appeared to be contradictory philosophical positions (the search for autonomy by emerging European states against the universality of the Church) would enjoy a short-lived peaceful co-existence in eighteenth-century Malta, where the principles of 'citizenship' would find a privileged place in Church marriage acts.

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Interfaith marriages in the Mediterranean constituted transgressive challenges to the social order and oriented scholarly reconstructions of the past to view them as ‘exceptional’ and not meriting scrutiny. But it is precisely because they were bracketed as ‘exceptional’ that they reveal themselves as visibly invisible tactics of social amelioration. Linked as they are to conversion and the policing of group boundaries and membership, this paper argues that the-what-constitutes interfaith marriages differed between the various prophetic religions and between religious elites and the grassroots. This created ‘gaps’ for social mobility through interfaith marriages. Ironically, a significant number of interfaith marriages in Medieval al Andalus and the Ottoman Balkans were between male converts and non-converted women, resulting in the cultivation of aggregated religious practices. Interfaith marriages challenge dominant national and scholarly constructions of the past as consisting of discrete, mutually exclusive, religious and social strata. Keywords: Interfaith marriages, Conversion and Religious Syncretism, al Andalus, Cyprus, Crete.
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