FLORES, Argentina â€“ Cynthia Agustina Francis, wife of Pope Francis, has sought official annulment ofÂ her 38-year marriage, citing â€œestrangement after prolonged separationâ€, according to court papers filed in Buenos Aires.
The move comes just hours after the Pope reformed the annulment process by which Catholics may officially invalidateÂ a marriage and still receive Holy Communion. According to religious sources, denial of the Eucharist would condemn Catholics to an eternal existence of â€œweeping and the gnashing of teeth.â€Â Without an annulment, divorced Catholics who remarry are technically considered adulterers.
Cynthia Peralta and Jorge Mario Bergoglio met while both were theology students at theColegio de San JosÃ© in San Miguel. The two married in 1977 and had no children. Sra. Francis has remained a behind-the-scenes presence during the entirety of herÂ husbandâ€™s religious career â€“ virtuallyÂ invisible, some say. Others believe Cynthia was the power behind the throne, working to make ends meet while Jorge completedÂ his theology thesis.
The Pope is reportedly â€œheartsickâ€ overÂ his wifeâ€™s decision, but understands that the stress of being apart led to her ultimate decision to endÂ their nearly four decade union. Many conservative Catholics voiced their opposition toÂ the easing of the annulment process, as well as Mrs. Popeâ€™s moveÂ to seek the annulment so quickly.
â€œShe was always more of a â€œstay-at-casa,â€ said cousin Bernadette Peralta, â€œbut in her most recent letters she confided toÂ me that the travel and separation were more than she could bear. We are torn over the news.â€
His Holiness has traveled hundreds of thousands of miles sinceÂ his March, 2013 inauguration. In 2014, his hectic pastoral schedule brought him to Israel, Jordan, and Palestine in May, South Korea in August, Albania in September, and Turkey in November.
So far in 2015, he has visited Sri Lanka and the Philippines in January, Bosnia and Herzegovina in June, and Bolivia, Ecuador, and Paraguay in July. September travels include visits toÂ Cuba and the United States.
Under the Popeâ€™s new rules, granting of the annulment is expected within 30 to 45 days.