Pope Francis' decision to make it much easier for Catholics to annul their marriages is a welcome move, the spokesperson for the Catholic Church in Rwanda has said.
Bishop Smaragde Mbonyintege made the remarks an interview with The New Times, yesterday, while reacting to reports that the Pontiff had made it easier, quicker and free for Catholics to have their marriages annulled under new reforms announced on Tuesday.
The Church rules governing divorce had long been criticised for being complicated, costly and out of reach for many.
The notion of marriage being a life commitment is one of the fundamental tenets of the Catholic faith, but the Church’s doctrine allows for unions to be cancelled when the marriage is judged to have been fundamentally flawed from the beginning.
Possible justifications for reaching this conclusion include non-consummation of the marriage, one or both partners having entered into it without the intention of staying in the relationship, or one of the partners having no desire to have children.
But up until Tuesday’s announcement by Pope Francis, only a Catholic Church court in the Vatican could nullify marriage, leaving many Catholics willing to play by the Church rules unable to do so because the rulings at the Vatican court take long to be issued.
“There could be so many cases which are not yet dealt with,” Mbonyintege said.
The Kabgayi bishop said during a synod (a formal meeting of church leaders) that will be held in Rome next month, Catholic Church bishops could officially be given the right to issue cancellation of marriages instead of believers having to wait for rulings by the Vatican.
“We need it (bishops to be given the right to cancel marriages) because there are cases where people give up on officially nullifying their marriages because the legitimate jurisdiction is far away,” Mbonyintege said.
He added that the Catholic Church synod will also discuss how to help believers who have divorced without getting approval from the Church because at the moment they cannot get communion in the Church.
Analysts point out that many Catholics who have divorced and remarried could have their new marriages recognised by the Church if local catholic bishops are given the right to cancel their previous marriages.
The analysts also say non-Catholics who are willing to get married to the Catholics may also easily do so under the new reforms.
The Pontiff has also announced that the next synod will also discuss other challenges to family life in the Church as well as global challenges such as the impact of poverty, war and forced migration.
The move to ease marriage cancellations for Catholics marks an important policy shift by the Church.