May 02, 2024 Print this article

The Only City Without Divorce

The family is one of the institutions most affected by the crisis in our decadent times. Religious and moral sentiments have practically disappeared as if torn to bits. The divorce rate is overwhelming—an estimated 50% of marriages fall apart. In addition, there are illicit unions that are common and seemingly without consequences.

But — lo and behold! — despite the moral crisis, there’s a city where the marriage bond is so strong that there’s no record of divorce.

The city is Siroki-Brijeg in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The city’s 26,000 inhabitants of Croatian origin are familiar with adversity. They had to defend their Catholic Faith during the Muslim invasion in the 15th Century. Their Faith was tested again when the country fell under the boot of atheistic communism.

The National Catholic Register reports that in Siroki-Brijeg, “no one in living memory has ever been divorced.”

How do you explain such a remarkable thing?

First, the city's population is almost 100% Catholic, and they take their Faith seriously. They consider it an honor to defend the indissolubility of marriage and the monogamous family. That means marriage is the sacred union between a man and a woman, as stated in the country’s Constitution.

However, what marks this profound religious attitude is that they see marriage as a cross, united with the Cross of Christ. This helps the spouses live their union without romanticism, false expectations, or whimsical illusions. Realistically, we live in a valley of tears. Everyone has defects. And there’s no mutual understanding without the mutual exercise of patience.

This Catholic understanding of marriage is what prevents divorce and separation. However, this attitude of fidelity is expressed in a beautiful custom. During their married life, the spouses find strength by praying together before the crucifix, a special crucifix they receive on their wedding day.

In the wedding ceremony, the priest blesses the crucifix presented by the bride and groom. He places the bride’s right hand on the crucifix, then that of the groom upon hers, and covers them with a stole. The couple then makes their vows with their hands clasping the crucifix. The priest tells them they have found the ideal “partner” with whom they must share their lives.

He says:

“You have found your cross! It is a cross that you must love and take with you every day of your lives. Know how to appreciate it.”

After kissing the cross, the spouses enthrone it in their home.

When trials, misunderstandings, disagreements, and difficulties common to all marriages arise, both spouses kneel before the crucifix and, with unwavering Faith, ask for strength to endure them because Our Lord’s yoke “is easy, and His burden, light.” This attitude is consistent with the belief that the cross will give them strength to overcome their daily trials.

The spouses are aware that if one abandons the other, they will abandon Christ. And the source of perseverance comes from the Cross of Christ rather than external factors.

The children of these strong unions learn how to venerate the family crucifix and direct their early prayers to the cross.

These Catholics learn how to practice, from an early age, that which the immortal Portuguese author Luis de Camões already celebrates with the words: “Thou, who carefully looks for rest in this tempestuous sea of the world, do not expect to find any rest except in Jesus Christ crucified.”