Religion

Pope ensures application of marriage annulment reforms in Italy

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Vatican News

Six years ago in September 2015, Pope Francis issued the Motu proprio Mitis Iudex Dominus Iesus (The Gentle Judge, our Lord Jesus), introducing new rules to streamline the process for obtaining marriage annulments, addressing complaints that the proceedings in marriage tribunals were too cumbersome, complicated, and expensive.

Motu Proprio

On Friday, the Pontiff made a further move in this area, issuing a motu proprio to establish a commission to verify and help the implementation of the reform in Italy, so as to give “new impetus” to those rules.

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The purpose of the commission, which has been set up at the Roman Rota with the participation of a bishop of the Italian Bishops’ Conference (CEI), is to “support the Churches in Italy to welcome the reform”. The Holy Father recalls that the bishop has received the power to judge marriage cases, and stressed again that “the judicial ministry” of the bishop “by its very nature postulates closeness between the judge and the faithful”, thus giving rise to “at least an expectation on the part of the faithful” to be able to turn to their bishop’s court “according to the principle of proximity”.

Recalling the norms issued in 2015, the Pope in his new Motu Proprio, dated November 17, reiterates that although diocesan bishops are permitted to have access to other tribunals, this faculty should be considered an exception and therefore every bishop “who does not yet have his own ecclesiastical tribunal, must seek to erect it or at least work to ensure that this becomes possible”.  He says that the equal distribution of the human and economic resources to the dioceses for the exercise of judicial power, will be a stimulus and help individual bishops to put the reform of the marriage annulment process into practice.

Pope Francis reiterates what he already indicated in his address to the Italian Bishops’ Conference in May 2019: “The reform drive of the canonical marriage annulment process – characterized by proximity, speed, and gratuitousness of the procedures – necessarily passes through a conversion of structures and persons”.

A new Pontifical Commission

To encourage this “conversion”, six years after the new norms came into force, the Pope set up a Pontifical Commission at the Tribunal of the Roman Rota, to verify and help all the particular Churches in Italy. The Commission will be chaired by the Dean of the Rota, Father Alejandro Arellano Cedillo, and will include the two Rota judges, Vito Angelo Todisco and Davide Salvatori, and Bishop Vincenzo Pisanello of Oria.

The Commission’s task will be “to ascertain and verify the full and immediate application of the reform” in Italian dioceses. It will “suggest to the same dioceses what is considered appropriate and necessary to support and help the fruitful continuation of the reform, so that the Churches in Italy may show themselves to the faithful as generous mothers, in a matter closely linked to the salvation of souls”, which has also been encouraged by the Extraordinary Synod on the Family.

At the end of its work, the Commission will draw up a detailed report on the application of the new rules on marriage annulment cases in Italy.

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