The Vatican announced Saturday that Pope Francis is to establish a special commission to examine possibilities for streamlining the annulments process.
In a statement, the Vatican said the goal of the new body, which will begin work as soon as possible, “is to prepare a proposal to reform the matrimonial process, with the objective of simplifying its procedure, rendering it more streamlined, and safeguarding the indissolubility of marriage.”
The Vatican said the Holy Father decided to establish the new commission on August 27th.
The new body will be presided by Msgr. Pio Vito Pinto, dean of the Tribunal of the Roman Rota, and will be composed of the following members:
Cardinal Francesco Coccopalmerio, president of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts; Archbishop Luis Francisco Ladaria Ferrer, SJ, secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith; Archbishop Dimitrios Salachas, apostolic exarch for the Greek-Catholics of Byzantine Rite; Monsignors Maurice Monier, Leo Xavier Michael Arokiaraj and Alejandro W. Bunge, auditor prelates of the Tribunal of the Roman Rota; Father Nikolaus Schöch, O.F.M., Substitute Promotor of Justice of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura; Father Konštanc Miroslav Adam, O.P., rector of the Pontificia Università San Tommaso d’Aquino (Angelicum); Father Jorge Horta Espinoza, O.F.M., dean of the Faculty of Canon Law of the Pontificia Università Antonianum; and Prof. Paolo Moneta, formerly professor of Canon Law at the Università di Pisa.
The news that Francis wants to help the faithful obtain annulments more easily rather than go through with divorces comes ahead of the Synod on the Family which is expected to discuss the Church’s teaching that bans divorced and civilly remarried Catholics from receiving Holy Communion.
The Vatican has yet to give details on what the commission might decide, but observers say one option could be to scrap the current two-tier Church decision-making system on annulments, leaving just one tier in place, unless the annulment is contested by one of the spouses.