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New reforms by Pope Francis will make marriage annulments cheaper and easier for Catholics.

Pope Francis on Tuesday introduced radical new reforms to the Catholic Church’s process for annulling marriages.  Vatican experts describe the reforms as the most comprehensive the church has seen in centuries.

The new law on annulments will remove the requirement that all annulment decisions get a second judgment. In addition, the change will allow local bishops to speed up the annulment process in some cases while expanding the bishops’ role in judging nullification proceedings.  The annulment process is to be free and completed within 45 days.

Rev. Thomas Rosica, an English-language spokesman for the Vatican, told the Washington Post the pope’s changes don’t resolve whether divorced and remarried Catholics may take communion but rather put the question “into a new context” to be examined further by the church.

The changes take effect on Dec. 8 and mark the start of Francis’s Holy Year of Mercy, a yearlong celebration in which the pope intends on showcasing the church’s merciful side. 

One prominent Catholic priest told CNN the Tuesday announcement was, “an act of mercy from a pastoral Pope who listens carefully to the concerns of the people.”

A Catholic needs an annulment from the church in order to remarry in the church. Any Catholic who remarries without the annulment is considered an adulterer living in sin which forbids them from receiving Communion.

Catholics have complained the annulment process takes too long, if they are allowed one at all. Also, the costs can climb into the thousands of dollars for tribunal and legal fees although many dioceses have waived their fees.

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