Pope speeds up, simplifies process for marriage annulments

FILE - In this Saturday, Oct. 26, 2013 file photo, Pope Francis leaves after an audience with families in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican. The Vatican is taking the unusual step of conducting a worldwide survey on how parishes deal with sensitive issues such as birth control, divorce and gay marriage, seeking input ahead of a major meeting on the family that Pope Francis plans next year. The survey reflects the pope's pledges to move away from what he called a "Vatican-centric" approach toward one where local church leaders are more involved in decision-making. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino, File)
FILE - In this Saturday, Oct. 26, 2013 file photo, Pope Francis leaves after an audience with families in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican. The Vatican is taking the unusual step of conducting a worldwide survey on how parishes deal with sensitive issues such as birth control, divorce and gay marriage, seeking input ahead of a major meeting on the family that Pope Francis plans next year. The survey reflects the pope's pledges to move away from what he called a "Vatican-centric" approach toward one where local church leaders are more involved in decision-making. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino, File)

VATICAN CITY (AP) – Pope Francis has radically reformed the Catholic Church’s process for annulling marriages, allowing for fast-track decisions and removing automatic appeals in a bid to speed up and simplify the procedure.

Francis issued a new law Tuesday regulating how bishops around the world determine when a fundamental flaw has made a marriage invalid. Catholics must get this church annulment if they want to remarry in the church.

But the process has long been criticized for being complicated, costly and out of reach for many Catholics.

The biggest reform involves a new fast-track procedure, handled by the bishop himself, that can be used when both spouses request an annulment. It can also be used when other proof makes a more drawn-out investigation unnecessary.

(Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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