Pope Francis Turns Heads After Marrying 20 Couples Despite Cohabitation

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A group wedding at the Vatican is making headlines around the world.

Many of the 20 couples married on Sunday had been cohabiting — “living in sin” under church law, CBS 2’s Tony Aiello reported.

But Pope Francis set a forgiving tone as the couples tied the knot under the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica.

Guido Tassaro and Gabriella Improta lived together for years before their marriage. Tassaro’s first marriage was annulled and Improta had a daughter out-of-wedlock.

Most of the other couples had also cohabited as modern couples tend to do despite church teachings that sex outside of marriage is sinful, Aiello reported.

It seems the pope is giving his blessing to how countless parish priests deal with modern matrimony.

“People come in, they want the sacrament, we want to give it to them,” said Cardinal Timothy Dolan. “They kind of fess up and say ‘we gotta be blunt, Father, we’re already kind of living together.'”

Dolan said preparing for a Catholic wedding provides couples a chance to confess, repent, and reconnect with their faith.

“This is really an invitation to get your spiritual and moral life in order — so it becomes a beautiful, not just a sacrament, it becomes an occasion of moral renewal,” he said.

The pope’s participation was deeply meaningful for the newlyweds and won praise from young Catholics in New York, Aiello reported.

“I think what he’s kind of known for is trying to like break down some of the conventions that have been rigidly upheld,” said Fordham University student Helen Keating.

“I think it’s a big step forward,” said Fordham University student Kelsey Watson. “This pope has been doing a lot of things like that. It’s a good thing.”

Since becoming pope last year, Francis has stressed the church should be a forgiving place that welcomes sinners.

Next month, there will be a meeting in Rome called a Synod. Cardinal Dolan will be in attendance as the group discusses all kinds of family issues. Some Catholics hope the ban on divorced people receiving communion will be lifted, though it’s not clear the pope is ready to go for that, Aiello reported.

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