VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Pope Francis, making the most substantial changes to Catholic marriage annulment procedures in centuries, on Tuesday radically simplified them and said bishops should give greater help to divorced couples.
In a move that again showed his desire for the Church to be more merciful to Catholics in difficulty, Francis reaffirmed traditional teaching on the "indissolubility of marriage", but streamlined annulment procedures many considered cumbersome, lengthy, outdated and expensive.
An annulment, formally known as a "decree of nullity", is a ruling that a marriage was not valid according to Church law because certain prerequisites, such as free will, psychological maturity and openness to having children, were lacking.
Francis said the procedures needed to be speeded up so that Catholics who sought Church-sanctioned divorces should not be "long oppressed by darkness of doubt" over whether they could have their marriages annulled.
(Reporting By Philip Pullella; Editing by Crispian Balmer)