Pope Francis has insisted that his reform of the annulment process has not allowed for ‘Catholic divorce’ during an in-flight press conference at the end of his papal trip to America

After participating in the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia and looking ahead to the opening on October 4 of the Synod of Bishops on the family, Pope Francis was asked about his decision to streamline the process for declaring the nullity of marriages.

He insisted the change was strictly juridical and not doctrinal. It is not “Catholic divorce” he said. The annulment process needed reform because with automatic appeals “there were processes that lasted 10-15 years.”

The annulment process does not dissolve a marriage, but rather investigates whether or not a valid sacramental marriage was present from the beginning, he said.

The decision to issue the new rules for the process responds to a request made by the majority of bishops at the extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the family last year, he said.

The question of finding some sort of process or “penitential path” to readmit to the sacraments Catholics who have remarried without an annulment is something still on the synod’s agenda, he said. “It seems a bit simplistic to me to say they can receive Communion,” but it is an issue that needs further discussion.