Historically, the Catholic Church has forbidden those who have been divorced and remarried to take Holy Communion. However, those who have been remarried after an annulment to participate in the practice.
The process of having a marriage annulled results in a marriage being wiped off the books, so to speak, as if it never happened. Prior to the Pope's announcement, a marriage could only be annulled if the ceremony was deemed to be invalid, such as it being performed outside the Catholic Church, if there was defect of intent such as a promise to remain monogamous or to have children, if either husband or wife were coerced or if they were previously married. Other, less used provisions include certain blood relations, and of course, same-sex marriages.
The Pope, however, has amended this and made the announcement during a speech he delivered on 26 January 2013 before the members of a tribunal known as the 'Roman Rota.'
His amendment added the provision of 'lack of faith' to the existing rote, meaning that if one or both parties profess a lack of faith would, as Benedict stated,
"…such a lack may, although not necessarily, also hurt the goods of marriage [since faith in God is] a very important element for living in mutual dedication and conjugal fidelity.”
In a report filed by the Religion News Service, the Pope stated that the issue of faith requires 'further reflection,' and pointed out the rise in secularism and his belief that an individual who has little or no faith would not be able to make life long commitments.
The report cites Pontifical University of the Holy Cross in Rome's Professor Miguel Angel Ortiz,
"…Benedict wasn’t so much addressing the specific issue of remarried divorcees but addressing the relation between the spouses’ personal faith and the validity of marriage, including its commitment to fidelity."
This issue was first breached by the Pope almost eight years ago. At that time, the Pope stated that unbelief was enough to annul a marriage, but after conferring with Catholic theologians, he had tabled the issue and deemed it needing more consideration.
Given the increase worldwide of individuals who have either left religion altogether, or are not affiliated with any church, denomination or organized religious body, the rate of annulments may see a sharp rise, as well.
For more information, commentary and relevant links, please read the whole story at Religion News Service.