March 2, 2016

Pope Francis changes remarriage rules! (For heads of state)

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Pope Francis waves as he leaves after leading his weekly general audience in Saint Peter's Square at the Vatican, on March 2, 2016. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi 
*Editors: This photo may only be republished with RNS-POPE-MARRIED, originally transmitted on March 3, 2016.

Pope Francis waves as he leaves after leading his weekly general audience in Saint Peter's Square at the Vatican, on March 2, 2016. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi *Editors: This photo may only be republished with RNS-POPE-MARRIED, originally transmitted on March 3, 2016.

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(RNS) There is intense anticipation in the Catholic Church — and no small amount of anxiety for traditionalists — over what Pope Francis will say about Communion for divorced and remarried Catholics in a key document expected in the coming weeks.

But Francis has already made an intriguing change in this area, albeit one that only concerns the Vatican’s arcane diplomatic protocol and a very, very select group: Catholic heads of state.

Pope Francis waves as he leaves after leading his weekly general audience in Saint Peter's Square at the Vatican, on March 2, 2016. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi *Editors: This photo may only be republished with RNS-POPE-MARRIED, originally transmitted on March 3, 2016.

Pope Francis waves as he leaves after leading his weekly general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican on March 2, 2016. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi
*Editors: This photo may only be republished with RNS-POPE-MARRIED, originally transmitted on March 3, 2016.

As longtime Vatican-watcher Andrea Tornielli reports, the pontiff has altered the long-standing Vatican custom that if a Catholic president or prime minister (or dictator) who is divorced and remarried without an annulment visits the pope with his or her spouse, the pope will meet with the head of state first and then later greet the spouse — who is usually waiting ensconced in an anteroom.

“From now on,” Tornielli writes, “Catholic heads of state in irregular marital unions will be able to meet the pope along with their spouse and the latter will also be able to appear in official group photos when gifts are exchanged.”

Tornielli said Francis asked for the change — first reported by Argentine journalist Elisabetta Pique — two years ago when an unnamed Latin American head of state who had married his wife in a civil ceremony met the pope, who then greeted the wife in a separate location.

The new protocol was used for the first time last Saturday (Feb. 27) for another Latin American head of state, the new president of Francis’ native Argentina, Mauricio Macri, and his third wife, Juliana Awada.

(David Gibson is a national reporter for RNS)

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  • Betty Clermont

    1. During the last in-flight interview, the pope said NO COMMUNION. “Integrating in the Church doesn’t mean receiving communion.I know married Catholics in a second union who go to church and say I want communion, as if joining in Communion were an award. It’s a work towards integration, all doors are open, but we cannot say, ‘from here on they can have communion.’ This would be an injury also to marriage.”
    2. The ultimate goal is for the pope to be a player in global geopolitics. He cannot be so rude to heads-of-state and at the same time expect to be considered as another world leader.

  • Joseph Warner

    Your sensationalist headline is misleading. Very cheap journalism.

  • Terrell Lewis

    While there is much I like about the Catholic Church, the fact that my wife was divorced prevents me from converting.

  • Pat

    Have you spoken to a priest about your situation? There might be a way.

  • Andrew Eppink

    The Pope is off the reservation.When’s his constant chipping away at moral standards going to end? There’ll be no Church left when he’s done.

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  • Dawn Fitzpatrick

    Not necessarily, Terrell. Please go see a priest. Annulments are available, they just require some research. Her previous marriage could contain any of so many things that make an annulment possible. Please look into it.

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  • Don McCrabb

    I agree. A change in diplomatic procedures is not a change “marriage rules.”

  • samuel johnston

    Ah..theology/religious law- a game of rules and loopholes, devised by the clever to control the multitude, and excuse themselves.