Pope Francis has appointed an 11 member commission to discuss ways of making annulments easier for married Catholics to obtain.
The Vatican announced the commission on Saturday in order make annulments “more streamlined, while safeguarding the principle of the indissolubility of marriage”.
An annulment, or ‘declaration of nullity’, means that, in the eyes of the church, a marriage has not been valid from the start. Acceptable reasons for seeking an annulment include one spouse not wanting children or not fully committing to the marriage.
Civil divorce, despite its increasing popularity with Catholics, is not recognised by the church. People who get a divorce and then remarry can be refused communion as, in the eyes of the church, they are still married to their first spouse.
Historically, the process of annulment in the church has been complex and can be expensive. Despite this, Pope Francis’ predecessor, Benedict XVI, thought it was too easy.
The announcement of the commission comes less than a week after the Pope married 20 couples in a Vatican ceremony. Next month, a gathering of bishops will discuss the changing attitudes towards family within the church.