Pope advocates better preparation for marriage in new Vatican guidelines


Southern Europe


Photo AFP, Filippo Monteforte

The Vatican published Wednesday new guidelines for clergy to help couples in preparation of their marriage. In the foreword, Pope Francis says the document is necessary to avoid celebrating "null or inconsistent" unions.

Marriage preparation should become an integral part of the marriage procedure, “as an antidote to avoid the proliferation of null or inconsistent marriage celebrations". This writes the Pope when introducing the "Catechumenal Itineraries for married life".

"The goal is to walk along with couples during an important part of their road together in the journey of life, even after the wedding, especially during moments of crisis or discouragement," the Pope writes.

The document, created by the Dicastery for the Laity, the Family and Life, comes a week before the start of the 10th World Meeting of Families (22-26 June), which will link Rome with the Catholic dioceses of the five continents, digitally, under the presidency of the Pope. The guidelines are aimed at bishops and pastoral workers.

These guidelines help the clergy in guiding couples in three faces. First, the "marriage catechumenate" should last about a year. The second phase should include a few months of more immediate preparation and a pre-wedding retreat just before the wedding. The third phase of assisting newlyweds should last two or three years.


This year marks the fifth anniversary of Amoris laetitia, Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation on love in the family. This address was convened from the conclusions of two synodal assemblies (2014 and 2015) dedicated to this theme.

The Pope emphasises that, during these meetings, the "grave concern" of ecclesial leaders was that young people have a "too superficial preparation" for marriage, running the risk that the marriage will "collapse" in a short time.

"The Church dedicates a lot of time, several years, to the preparation of candidates for the priesthood or religious life, but it dedicates little time, just a few weeks, to those who are preparing for Marriage", he warns. This reports the Portuguese news site Ecclesia.

According to the Catholic News Agency, the document is available in Italian and will soon be released in other languages. It is structured in three stages: marriage preparation, the wedding celebration, and accompaniment in the first years of married life.


In this manual, which has 94 paragraphs, mention is made only at the very end of the case of divorced and civilly remarried persons. In paragraph 93, the dicastery recalls that “despite all the support that the Church can offer to couples in crisis, there are nevertheless situations in which separation is inevitable”.

This “last resort” solution must be accompanied pastorally. “Above all, it is appropriate to value the suffering of those who have unjustly suffered a separation, a divorce or an abandonment”, details the document which then invites to set up a “pastoral ministry of reconciliation and mediation” . This could be carried out by listening centers specially created in the dioceses.

The last paragraph of the manual is devoted more specifically to the case of “divorced but not remarried” persons . These people are "often witnesses of conjugal fidelity" who must be "encouraged to find in the Eucharist the nourishment that sustains them in their state", explain the authors of the text.


The Pope said he hoped another document would soon be published providing guidance and clear suggestions for accompanying couples "who have experienced the failure of their marriage and are living in a new union or are civilly remarried."

The Church wants to accompany these couples "so that they do not feel abandoned and can find accessible and fraternal places of welcome, help in discernment and participation in communities," he wrote.



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