Pope Francis on Tuesday made it easier, quicker and free for Catholics to have their marriages annulled under reforms regarded with suspicion by conservatives who fear he may be opening the door to Church-approved divorce. Details of changes to the system were unveiled Tuesday with the publication of a papal letter on the issue to Catholic churches across the world. In it, the Argentinian pontiff says annulment will henceforth require only one decision rather than having to be approved by two church tribunals, as currently. A streamlined procedure is to be introduced with most cases to be handled by individual bishops rather than subject to a hearing process. Appeals to a Vatican court against individual annulment will still be possible but will become the exception not the rule. While Francis is seeking to democratise the procedure in a way that would appear to make an increase in the number of annulment likely, his letter does not amend the exceptional conditions under which they can be granted. In his letter, he strongly reaffirms the principle of the indissolubility of marriage while highlighting the “enormous number of believers” for whom annulment is currently not an option for various reasons. Bishops around the world are due in Rome in October for a synod that will seek to reach a consensus on these vexed issues before Francis decides what, if any, reforms will be made.