From its early days the Association of Interchurch Families has been curious about the situation of interchurch families in other countries. The Roman Catholic Church is a worldwide church and so we recognised that it was important to work internationally as well as nationally. Since the 1960s links have gradually been established with similar families, groups and associations in other parts of the world and, in recent years, significant work has been undertaken with these groups under the banner of the “Interchurch Families International Network”. In different countries and in different languages we tend to describe ourselves differently – even in English-speaking regions we regularly find that people use two terms, ‘interchurch families’ and ‘mixed marriages’ without distinction. Yet these different names describe very similar realities and experience.
Groups and associations of interchurch families, some more formal than others, have been established in a number of countries. In France and Germany regional groups meet regularly; annual conferences are held in Germany and Austria, and every two or three years in France with Swiss participation. We have had contact in the past with a small group in northern Italy, and regular or occasional contact with individual couples in eastern Europe, in Africa and in Asia. The Northern Ireland Mixed Marriage Association (NIMMA) has a particular mission within the often still divided community, and has done important work there with community leaders over many years. In the US there is a conference for interchurch families every few years, and in Canada and Australia there have been local groups in the past, and some couples who are regularly in touch by internet.
International conferences have been held in Europe, North America and Australia. The First (multilingual) World Gathering of Interchurch Families was held in 1998 in Geneva at the World Council of Churches headquarters, and the second followed in 2003 near Rome. This later Gathering adopted the document ‘Interchurch Families and Christian Unity’, which had been prepared by an international group in English, French, German and Italian and a copy was presented to the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity (PCPCU); it has since been distributed widely among church leaders in many countries. Since their first visit to the PCPCU representatives from individual countries as well as small international groups have visited the Vatican several times to talk informally with staff and have been warmly received. Interchurch families have also been present at Assemblies of the World Council of Churches on several occasions, which have given us opportunities to talk further with significant church leaders, including staff from the PCPCU.
The international website www.interchurchfamilies.org/about-us holds a huge volume of information, and a history and documentation of the work carried out in many different countries, separately and together. This website also hosts the Interchurch Families International Discussion Group which enables couples, clergy, friends and families of interchurch couples to exchange experiences and sometimes to offer each other support and advice.
The Associations World leaflet below contains details of how to contact various groups, associations and individuals working with Interchurch families in different countries. This kept updated as far as possible, you can also find links to international websites on the AIF Web Links page.