Published On: Jul 29 2013 11:20:49 AM CDTUpdated On: Jul 29 2013 02:53:04 PM CDT
Pope Francis on Sept. 8 radically revised the process by which Catholics may annul their marriages, streamlining steps that many in the church considered too cumbersome and costly.
The move is the latest in a series of reforms by Francis as he seeks to make the church more responsive to the real needs of lay Catholics, especially those who have long felt marginalized by the hierarchy. Without the annulments, Catholics who remarry are not allowed to receive Holy Communion, which many describe as a painful exclusion from the church's chief sacrament.
Ever since he was elected pope in 2013, Francis has exhibited a marked departure from his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI. Even his shoes, shown here, are symbolic of a simpler papacy in contrast to the bright red shoes favorited by Benedict.
Pope Francis interacts with the media much more than any pope before him. Here, he attends his first audience with journalists and media inside the Paul VI hall on March 16, 2013 in Vatican City, Vatican.
When asked in an in-depth interview with a Jesuit magazine in Rome, "Who is Jorge Mario Bergolio?" the pope's answer was blunt and honest. "I am a sinner. This is the most accurate definition. It is not a figure of speech, a literary genre. I am a sinner."
Pope Francis is somewhat of a headache for his security team, often making unscheduled visits among the masses. Here, he stepped out of his vehicle to kiss the head of a man with a physical disability as he arrived for his inauguration.
Pope Francis in May 2013 said that atheists aren't necessarily going to hell. His stance is that all people who do good works, including atheists, are going to heaven. "God's mercy does not have limits and therefore it reaches nonbelievers, too, for whom sin would not be the lack of faith in God, but rather, failure to obey one's conscience."
Pope Francis raised eyebrows in June 2013 when he commented about gays, telling reporters "Who am I to judge?" homosexuals who embrace God.
Pope Francis blasted the Vatican's top bureaucrats at an annual Christmas gathering on Dec. 22, 2014 accusing the cardinals, bishops and priests who make up the Curia of "spiritual Alzheimer's" and of lusting for power at all costs.
In an interview with an Italian newspaper in January 2015, Pope Francis told a story of how he once encouraged a mother to not be ashamed to breastfeed her hungry baby in public.
In his encyclical on climate change released in June 2015, Francis challenged big business, stating, among many other things, "Is it realistic to hope that those who are obsessed with maximizing profits will stop to reflect on the environmental damage which they will leave behind for future generations?"
Pope Francis made headlines when he excommunicated members of the Mafia in June 2015 and then halted his motorcade on the way back home to the Vatican to bless a severely disabled young woman.
Pope Francis rocked the Catholic world on Sept. 1 by announcing that women who have had an abortion are not automatically excommunicated but can seek forgiveness from priests during the church's upcoming "Year of Mercy." The Pope's policy, which does not change church doctrine, technically applies only to Year of Mercy, a centuries-old Catholic practice during which believers may receive special indulgences for their sins. Vatican officials say it is possible the pontiff will allow the abortion policy to continue in perpetuity.