For many years, Pope Francis has made public his opinion on the Catholic church’s traditional view of marriage and divorce.
Until now, those of the Catholic faith were unable to be divorced and still accepted by the church. Considering marriage to last a lifetime, anyone who divorced and remarried was treated as an adulterer and forbidden to take Holy Communion.
The Pope has never hidden his views that the divorce procedure was too problematic and lengthy, leading some Catholics to simply not bother. This, he says, contributes to their feeling alienated from the church.
Now, according to recent reports, he has declared proposed measures to make it easier for Catholics to seek an annulment or divorce – a process speeded up by the ability for church authorities to make fast-track decisions.
It is thought that, once these new measures have been implemented, then ignorance of the Catholic faith or indeed lack of faith, will become accepted reasons for the annulment of a marriage.
Whereas once, approval was needed from two church tribunals and automatic appeals were permitted, approval will soon be required from only one tribunal. Automatic appeals will no longer be required, but can still take place if one of the parties requests it. A new fast track procedure will give Bishops the power to grant annulments directly if both spouses mutually agree.
This significant change in church thinking reflects the way in which Pope Francis is helping to guide the Catholic church out of its traditional, inflexible approach and into modern lifestyle. His down to earth, likeable character is undoubtedly winning over people of all faiths and this latest move, to demonstrate that the faith is seemingly aware of the challenges facing couples today and welcomes individuals from all circumstances, could well be one of the most important changes within the Catholic church for decades.