Pope acknowledges plight of divorcees

Pope Benedict XVI had a message of empathy on Saturday for the divorced and remarried, as he appealed to a Vatican tribunal to issue 'rapid' rulings on annulment requests.

The London Observer reports that it was the second time in a week that the Holy Father offered new hope to those on the margins of the Church. On Wednesday, he issued his first encyclical - Deus Caritas Est - which the paper described as a "warm meditation on the power of love".

In Rome on Saturday, he directly addressed a central tenet of Catholic doctrine that has caused distress to many followers of the church, which states that remarried divorcees are regarded as being in a permanent state of sin and cannot receive communion.

The Holy Father, in a speech to the Roman Rota - the tribunal that decides annulments - acknowledged that there was 'pastoral concern' about the predicament of these Catholics.

He told the panel that its decisions should come quickly for the sake of the faithful. An annulment means that a marriage was invalid, leaving the faithful free to remarry and receive communion.

In his speech to the tribunal, the Pope said it was very important that annulment rulings emerge in a reasonable amount of time. Some couples who apply for annulments have to wait four or five years for a decision, meaning their lives as Catholics are essentially on hold.

The Pope said, however, that it was also important that couples were helped to try to work out their problems and 'to find the path of reconciliation'.

The pontiff's comments came after it was revealed in the Italian press this week that Vatican granted nine out of every 10 annulments requested. In 2004, the last year for which figures are available, 46,060 annulments were requested, of which, 42,920 were granted.

Pope's olive branch to divorcees (The Observer 29/1/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Roman Rota | Text of address

Former top canonist says divorce is not sinful (CathNews 16/1/06)

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John L. Allen: Copyrighting the pope's words (National Catholic Reporter 27/1/06)
John L. Allen: Wolfensohn (National Catholic Reporter 27/1/06)
John L. Allen: The first encyclical (National Catholic Reporter 27/1/06)
John L. Allen: George (National Catholic Reporter 27/1/06)
John L. Allen: The family and economics (National Catholic Reporter 27/1/06)
John L. Allen: Reactions to Deus Caritas Est: Cordes (National Catholic Reporter 27/1/06)
John L. Allen: What the encyclical says about Benedict (National Catholic Reporter 27/1/06)
Peter Steinfels: Combing Through the Pope's First Encyclical (New York Times 28/1/06)
Ian Fisher: Benedict: A Man of His Words (New York Times 29/1/06)
Pope calls for speedy annulments as he softens Church's stance on divorce (London Telegraph 29/1/06)
Anger at gay equality move (The Tablet 28/1/06)
Encyclical on love sets tone of new papacy (The Tablet 28/1/06)
Peter Hampson: Making sense of love (The Tablet 28/1/06)
Deus Caritas Est: excerpts from the encyclical (The Tablet 28/1/06)
Editorial: The true face of Catholicism (The Tablet 28/1/06)
Love, Vatican Style (Time 25/1/06)
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Benedict XVI Sees Hope for Ecumenical Path (Zenit 26/1/06)
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30 Jan 2006