Pope Francis is rewriting the rules for Catholics who want to end a marriage by speeding up and simplifying the process for annulments
The process of getting an annulment has long been criticized for being complicated, costly, and out of reach for many Catholics.
The Pope is introducing a new "fast track process" that will allow local bishops to review applications if neither spouse is contesting the end of the marriage.
"The theme of mercy of healing people, of healing the rift between people and God has been at the heart of everything he has done as Pope,” Patrick Hornbeck, who is the Fordham University theology chair, said.
The Metropolitan Tribunal of the Archdiocese of Hartford released a statement to Eyewitness News on Tuesday.
"Pope Francis' general emphasis is to ensure all those seeking such a declaration that they are provided a timely hearing and not subject to undue delays or financial burdens. It does not seek to relax the actual reasons for which marriages are declared invalid, and thus to make for "easy annulments,” the statement read.
Annulments are granted, if the marriage is ruled not valid. Reasons include that the couple never intended their marriage to last or that one of the spouses didn't want children.
"It is a process where the church can offer understanding and listen to people's stories because no two stories are the same,” Sister Theresa Ann said.
Catholics must get an annulment if they want to remarry in the church.
Those who divorce in civil court and remarry are considered sinners and are not allowed to receive any sacraments including Holy Communion.
The pope still describes marriage as a union that should never be broken, but said the goal of the new reform is the "salvation of souls."
"I have an annulment with the old way and it worked and I am happy about that. But I hope the new will bring more people back to the church,” said Catholic Nun Martha Novelly from Washington D.C.
In the past, many Catholics were charged fees and urged to give large donations while waiting for their annulment to be approved.
The process will now be free of charge and should be complete within 45 days.
To read the full statement from the Metropolitan Tribunal of the Archdiocese of Hartford, click here.
To see the full letter from Pope Francis, click here.
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