The pope is making it easier for Catholics to end their marriages

Church elders explain the new laws.
Church elders explain the new laws.
Image: AP Photo/Riccardo De Luca
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The Vatican just announced its most sweeping reform of marriage annulments in many centuries, in an attempt to make the process faster and easier.

Instead of requiring two judgements from church officials, the process will now only need one; it must to be completed in 45 days; and will be free, except for an administrative fee. A fast-track option will also be introduced for some cases.

The church does not recognize divorce, but it does have an annulment process for dissolving marriages if one of the spouses proved it did not fulfill the necessary requirements for a union, such as an intent to be faithful.

The church’s harsh stance on divorce has made it difficult for some Catholics to participate fully in church life. A recent poll from the Pew Research Center showed that 62% of US Catholics believe those who have remarried without an annulment should be able to receive Communion.

The changes, spearheaded by Pope Francis, will come into effect on Dec. 8, which launches the church’s “Year of Mercy.” The pope said the reform was introduced so that “the heart of the faithful that wait for the clarification of their state may not be oppressed for a long time by the darkness of doubt.”

Francis has been a long-time proponent of streamlining the annulment process, which he has said was too long and costly. But as he announced the new laws, the pope emphasized he “does not favor the nullity of marriages.”