Pope Francis is to announce a reformed annulment procedure today.
The Pope is to issue two new decrees known as motu proprios at a press conference in Rome at mid-day.
According to the National Catholic Reporter their Latin titles, Mitis Iudex Dominus Iesus and Mitis et misericors Iesus, “suggest the reforms put a special focus on Jesus’ qualities of being merciful and meek”.
These new measures come just a month before the Vatican synod on family life, which is expected to air a wide range of views amongst Catholic bishops.
“Announcement of the reform of the annulment process comes with unusual speed for the Vatican, as the Pope only first appointed a commission to study the matter in August 2014,” the National Catholic Reporter states.
In a number of statements since his accession Pope Francis has made it clear that he feels compassion for those in morally difficult circumstances: the divorced and remarried, single mothers, gay Catholics.
Anyone who remarries after divorce is prohibited from receiving Communion. But if the first marriage is annulled, it is declared to have been invalidly contracted, and so is no barrier to remarriage within the Church – or to the person receiving Communion.
In January, Pope Francis said the process of annulment should be more straightforward and that the judges should not “lock the salvation of persons within the straits of legalism”.
“This is a point I want to emphasise: the sacraments are free,” he said.
And in November he said: “Some procedures are so long and so burdensome, they don’t favour [justice], and people give up.” He continued: “Mother Church should do justice and say: ‘Yes, it’s true, your marriage is null. No, your marriage is valid.’ But justice means saying so. That way, they can move on without this doubt, this darkness in their soul.”