Pope Francis calls for reform of marriage annulment, with emphasis on plight of children



VATICAN CITY (RNS) – Addressing members of the Vatican’s highest appeals tribunal, Pope Francis called for more attention to the consequences of marriage annulments, especially their effects on a couple’s children separate.

“The convictions of the ecclesiastical judge cannot ignore the memory, made up of shadows and lights, which marked a life, not only of the two spouses but also of the children,” François declared during an audience with members of the Roman Rota, the highest in the Vatican. court, Friday January 29.

“Spouses and children constitute a community of people, which always and certainly identifies with the good of the family, even when it has collapsed,” he added.

The Catholic Church does not recognize divorce, but marriages can be annulled if conditions such as mental or physical infirmity or lack of Catholic faith in one of the spouses predate the marriage, or if the consent to the marriage was obtained by verbal or physical violence.

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Francis reformed the annulment process in 2015, allowing diocesan bishops to act as judges to annul marriages, eliminating the requirement that the Roman Rota sign with its own sentence. This reform measure also pushed to make the procedure free.

In his address to the Roman Rota, part of which was spoken seated to relieve the pain of his chronic sciatica, the Pope noted that his reform “has received, and continues to receive, a great deal of resistance.”

After eliminating the role of the Roman Rota, “I received letters, many, I don’t know how many,” Francis said. “They were almost all from lawyers who were losing clients.”

He added: “In Spain, they say; ‘Por la plata baila el mono’, that is to say the monkey dances for money. It’s a saying that says a lot.

He justified giving the diocesan bishop the power to grant cancellations by saying, “The judge is the bishop” and called the order “a return to gospel truth”.

The pope’s concern for children in his speech is linked to the Year of Reflection on Amoris Laetitia, the 2015 apostolic exhortation of Francis written after the Synod on the Family five years ago. In it, Francis stressed the need to consider children who have seen the end of their parents’ marriage.

With the year “Amoris Laetitia Family” beginning on March 19, the anniversary date of the exhortation, he asked the Roman Rota and the bishops to “open up even more to the challenge posed by this subject”.

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