With the upcoming World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia (Sept. 22-25), and in anticipation of the Jubilee Year of Mercy, which begins on Dec. 8, Bishop Richard Malone has decided to eliminate all fees associated with seeking a marriage annulment through the Diocese of Buffalo's Marriage Tribunal.
For the past several weeks, diocesan officials had been working on the plan to eliminate annulment fees prior to the Sept. 8 announcement by Pope Francis to simplify the annulment process.
"The hope is that this decision will open the door for many more people to participate fully in the sacramental life of the Church," Bishop Malone said. "Often people are discouraged from seeking an annulment because of the perceived financial burden attached to an annulment process. Requesting a fee for the annulment process has been an enormous psychological hindrance."
Previously, the fee had partially covered the cost of operating the Tribunal Office which is responsible for processing annulment cases. While the fee was reduced or waived for those who could not afford it, the very existence of a fee was disheartening to many people and blocked the way for them to seek an annulment. By taking this step, Bishop Malone said he hopes that those who have been unable or unwilling to pursue an annulment will now be able and willing to do so.
Bishop Malone is encouraging pastors and other Church leaders to continue to make every effort to assure parishioners in divorced situations that the Church loves and welcomes them.
Many people are unclear about what an annulment is in the Catholic Church. A Church annulment is a statement by the Catholic Church that a particular relationship did not meet the qualifications and definition of marriage as defined by the Catholic Church. One or both parties may have entered the marriage with good will, but lacked the openness, honesty, or emotional stability or capacity to establish a community of life and love with another person.
Divorced and civilly remarried Catholics are welcome in our parishes. The Family Life Department of the Diocese of Buffalo offers a program called LINK aimed at assisting people to adjust to the fact of their divorce and at helping people reconstruct their lives in relationship to others. Information about such programs may be obtained from the Tribunal or Family Life Department.
For more information, about the annulment process please contact the Tribunal at 716-847-8769 or firstname.lastname@example.org.