Pope Francis
Pope Francis

QCOSTARICA – In Costa Rica, the process to annul a Catholic marriage could take more than six years, according to the Episcopal Conference. With the new reform announced this week, the process could be reduced to 45 days.

On Tuesday, Pope Francis radically revised the process by which Catholics may annul their marriages, streamlining steps making annulment of marriages cheaper and easier.

As explained by the father Glen Gomez, director of Press Episcopal Conference in Costa Rica, “the Pope changed the canonical way to streamline procedures, but does not touch the bottom, does not alter the essence”.

The three main changes announced on Tuesday are:

  • Eliminating a second review by a cleric before a marriage can be nullified.
  • Giving bishops the ability to fast-track and grant the annulment themselves in certain circumstances — for example, when spousal abuse or an extramarital affair has occurred.
  • The process should be free, except for a nominal fee for administrative costs, and should be completed within 45 days.

Catholics must obtain ecclesiastical annulment to remarry, a process criticized for being complicated, expensive and out of reach of many Catholics.

Another change in the nullity of Catholic marriage is the elimination of the automatic appeal after the first decision is taken. Appeals will still be possible, but will no longer be automatic.

Without the annulment, Catholics who remarry are not allowed to receive Holy Communion, which many describe as a painful exclusion from the church’s chief sacrament.

The reform also allows the local bishop, in places that have marriage tribunals, delegate cases to a judge priest with two assistants.

The move is the latest in a series of reforms by Pope Francis as he seeks to make the church more responsive to the real needs of lay Catholics, especially those who have long felt marginalized by the hierarchy.

The Pope said that the church’s many laws and institutions must be aimed at one chief purpose, “the salvation of souls.”


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