BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB)- Just two weeks before Pope Francis visit the U.S., the Pontiff is making sweeping reforms when it comes to marriage annulments.

The changes will make it easier and more affordable for people to obtain annulments.

These reforms will take effect Dec. 8, and come after the Pope gave priests permission to forgive women who have had abortions, and announced that even Atheists can go to Heaven.

Many are calling Pope Francis a progressive Pope.

News 4 spoke to some Catholics in the Queen City, who said while these reforms might be controversial, they open a door to the Church.

Lynn Sarkisian has been Catholic all her life, and is raising her children in the faith: they attend St. John the Baptist School.

Sarkisian said the Pope’s reform to the annulment process is a step in the right direction.

“I think that it’s a very nice, open, and honest gesture to ensure that everyone realizes that you can still participate,” she told News 4.

  • The Pope’s reforms eliminate a second judgement for marriage annulments that was previously required.
  • This allows for greater influence from local Bishops and will help make the process faster.
  • Marriage annulments will also be free, getting rid of some administrative costs.

Bishop Malone of the Buffalo Diocese said he hasn’t read the decision in it’s entirely yet, but believes it’s a good call.

“We have to hold to the teaching of Christ himself. That doesn’t at least in the Catholic tradition, allow for a divorce and then remarriage without an annulment, but the annulment part is not Jesus, that’s the Church’s way of trying to help couples,” Bishop Malone said Tuesday morning.

Ted Brown of Buffalo believes the Pope’s acceptance will draw people back to the Church.

“As a young adult I had a lot of trouble maintaining my faith, and with the present Pope it’s much easier to really be part of the Church,” he said.

American Catholics only represent about 6 percent of Catholics worldwide, but the U.S. accounts for around half of all annulments granted.

Ted’s wife Lisa also supports the Pope’s reforms, and said the older she gets, the more in line with her values the Church becomes.

She credits Pope Francis.

“I feel like my Church now as I’m raising young children is reflecting those values of compassion and humanity,” she said.