Pope Francis issues a Motu Proprio, setting up a new commission to verify and implement new rules for marriage annulment cases in Italian dioceses.
Six years ago, in September 2015, Pope Francis published the Motu proprio Mitis Iudex Dominus Iesus (The Sweet Judge, Our Lord Jesus), introducing new rules to streamline the process of obtaining marriage annulments, addressing complaints that matrimonial court proceedings were too cumbersome, complicated and expensive.
On Friday, the Sovereign Pontiff took a new step in this area, issuing a motu proprio to establish a commission to verify and assist in the implementation of the reform in Italy, in order to give “new impetus” to these rules.
The purpose of the commission, which was set up at the Roman Rota with the participation of a bishop from the Italian Episcopal Conference (CEI), is to “support the Churches in Italy to welcome reform”. The Holy Father recalls that the bishop has been given the power to judge marriage cases, and stresses again that “the judicial ministry” of the bishop “by its very nature postulates a closeness between the judge and the faithful”, thus giving rise to “at least an expectation on the part of the faithful” to be able to address their episcopal court “according to the principle of proximity”.
Recalling the norms issued in 2015, the Pope in his new Motu Proprio, dated November 17, recalls that although diocesan bishops are authorized to have access to other courts, this faculty must be considered an exception and therefore any bishop “who does not yet have its own ecclesiastical tribunal, must seek to erect it or at least work so that it becomes possible”. He says that the equal distribution of human and economic resources to the dioceses for the exercise of judicial power , will be an incentive and will help individual bishops to put into practice the reform of the marriage annulment process.
Pope Francis reiterates what he has already indicated in his address to the Italian Episcopal Conference in May 2019: “The reforming dynamic of the canonical process of annulment of marriage – characterized by the proximity, speed and gratuity of the procedures – passes necessarily by a conversion of structures and people”.
A new Pontifical Commission
To encourage this “conversion”, six years after the entry into force of the new norms, the Pope created a Pontifical Commission at the Tribunal of the Roman Rota, to check and help all the particular Churches in Italy. The Commission will be chaired by the Dean of Rota, Father Alejandro Arellano Cedillo, and will include the two judges of Rota, Vito Angelo Todisco and Davide Salvatori, and Bishop Vincenzo Pisanello d’Oria.
The task of the Commission will be “to note and verify the complete and immediate application of the reform” in the Italian dioceses. It “will propose to the same dioceses what is considered appropriate and necessary to support and help the fruitful continuation of the reform, so that the Churches in Italy can show themselves to the faithful as generous mothers, in a matter closely linked to the salvation of souls”, which was also encouraged by the Extraordinary Synod on the Family.
At the end of its work, the Commission will draw up a detailed report on the application of the new rules relating to cases of marriage annulment in Italy.