As avowed celibates, Catholic priests are supposed to know little about the intricacies of marriage alliances.
But a group of Catholic priests in Kerala has made "match-making" their mission by running a matrimonial website for community members over the past 16 years.
The site, Chavaramatrimony.com, has emerged over the years as a leading match-making portal, catering exclusively to the Christian community and is a rarity in that it is directly managed by priests who take a vow to remain celibates.
Unlike others, this portal accords equal priority to marriages and post-marriage lives of the couples who become partners through the medium, its organisers said.
Launched under the Chavara Cultural Centre in 1996, the portal is managed by the congregation of Carmelites of Mary Immaculate Fathers.
The portal is named after Blessed Kuriakose Elias Chavara, co-founder of the first congregation for men in the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church, known as Carmelites of Mary Immaculate.
In the 60 years of spiritual life, he toiled for the enrichment of Christianity and life of the community members.
Chavara was beatified, along with Saint Alphonsa, on February 8, 1986, by Pope John Paul II, during a papal visit to India.
While other commercial matrimonial sites are driven by profit-motive and demand huge sums as service charge, the organisers of Chavarmatrimony consider match-making a community service and charge only a one-time moderate registration fee from customers, which is valid for a year.
Johnson C Abraham, executive director of the ISO-certified portal, told PTI that their motto is the vision of Chavara who believed that good families resemble heavenly abode on earth.
They were totally against the concept of commission-based services and the role of brokers in making marital alliances.
"When we launched it some 16 years ago, most Christian marriages in Kerala took place through middlemen. Since then, the absence of middlemen is the major attraction of our site.
"We just play the role of a facilitator to link two families and open doors for them to contact," Abraham said.
With a database of more than one lakh profiles from different Christian denominations, the portal offers a host of services for registered brides and grooms like seminars and pre and post marital counselling.
Abraham said a major reason for the credibility and popularity of the site was that it is managed by priests, committed to community service without any personal interests.
Supporting this view, Subin George, a college lecturer from Angamali in Ernakulam district, who recently found his partner through the portal, said his faith in the priests and their institutions had persuaded him to use it.
"I have studied in educational institutions run by CMI. So, my family and I naturally have faith in them. We also strongly believed that Chavaramatrimony will be different from other commercial matrimonial sites as priests are behind it," he said.
Abraham said they had to face many hurdles when they started the portal.
Only national firms like Bharatmatrimony were active at the time. People were reluctant to give their photos to be displayed as they feared that it would be misused, he said.
"Now, we publish a monthly magazine comprising photos, personal profiles and other details of all of our registered customers."
Around 45-50 per cent customers could find their partners from Chavaramatrimony or its linked sites last year, he said.
Though the portal is run by Catholic priests, it has been receiving profiles from all Christian denominations. But, a major chunk of them are from Syrian, Latin and Malankara divisions (all Kerala-based Christians), said Joseph A. Lopez, Senior Manager-Administration of the site.
They had 12 branches in the state with 60 employees and plans to open one in Bangalore soon, he said.
Fr Roby Kannanchira and Fr Jose Panampuzha are director and assistant director respectively of the portal.