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Archbishop: Pope wants to 'simplify, shorten' Catholic marriage nullity process

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Pope Francis wants to make the process of seeking the declaration of nullity of a Catholic marriage simpler and quicker, Archbishop Emeritus Oscar Cruz said in an interview Wednesday.

Church officials in the Philippines, however, are waiting for any message the Pope might deliver about the subject during his visit later this week in order to organize its implementation.

In an interview with News To Go on Wednesday, Cruz, said: "Gusto po niya na itong procedural law in the resolution of marriages cases for nullity declaration ay to simplify and to shorten."

Cruz, founding judicial vicar of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP)'s National Appellate Matrimonial Tribunal, added that he will primarily be tuning in to the messages delivered by the Pope here during his five-day visit to know how to go about this matter, since "the moment he comes here and speaks here, he has a particular people in mind."

"I'm watching very carefully what are the renewals that should be done, especially as far as procedural law is concerned. Procedural law is one step after another of Church Law on how to solve religious cases, and that is one of my main assignments," said Cruz, a canon law expert and former archbishop of Lingayen-Dagupan. "I'm very particular about his coming here and hearing him if there are things that can help me look into this matter."

He added that  will be meeting after the papal visit here "to take action plans" on the things the Pope said, and that he will be addressing his fellow bishops on this particular matter.

"I'll give them the advisory [on] what [part of the] process we can get rid of to conform with this," he told News To Go.

Special committee

In September 2014, Vatican Radio reported that the Holy See Press Office announced that Pope Francis has decided "to establish a Special Commission for the study of the reform of the matrimonial processes in canon law."

"[It] will have as its goal to prepare a proposal of reform of the matrimonial process, with the objective of simplifying its procedure, making it more streamlined, and safeguarding the principle of the indissolubility of matrimony," the Vatican Radio report said.

It added that the committee would be chaired by Msgr. Pio Vito Pinto, dean of the Roman Rota, and would have 10 members.

Nullity of marriage in PHL

In the Philippines, Cruz said marriage cases are first brought to the respective tribunal of a diocese concerned, which will then be forwarded to the CBCP's tribunal "for confirmation or non-confirmation."

Cases like these in church, he said, can be finished "here without bothering Rome about it," unlike those concerning disciplinary problems of priests, on which the Vatican has the final say.

Under Article 36 of the Philippines' Family Code, a marriage may be annulled due to lack of parental consent; force or intimidation; psychological incapacity; fraud and physical incapacity to enter the married state.

Meanwhile, a marriage can be nullified when the grounds for union are void to begin with due to physical incapacity or, in the case of minors, the absence of parental consent.

The Catholic Church can only declare nullity of marriage, while civil courts may grant both nullity and annulments.

Government records obtained by GMA News Online in 2013 showed that 2012 figures on marriage dispute cases had almost doubled within a decade.

The number of marriage annulment and nullity cases had also risen in recent years despite high costs, with an average of 28 couples seeking to have their marriages declared null and void per day.

In an interview in 2013, Cruz said marriage nullity in church could come cheaper at P15,000.

Couples whose marriages are nullified may then opt to marry in the same church, the former archbishop said, adding the church tribunal would not grant annulment since they respect the sanctity of marriage. — Rose-An Jessica Dioquino/BM, GMA News
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