VATICAN CITY — Forty "I do's" — or "Si" in Italian — were pronounced in St. Peter's Basilica Sunday as Pope Francis married 20 couples, with one bride already a mother.
Francis in his homily likened families to the "bricks that build society."
Among the couples, all from the Rome area, is one in which the groom's first marriage was annulled by the church and the bride has a daughter from an earlier relationship. Some of the other couples already were living together.
The Vatican views sex outside marriage as sin, but Francis stresses the church should be a forgiving one.
He said marriage was "real life, not some TV show." He told the couples love of Jesus can help whenever their love "becomes lost, wounded or worn out."
Many rank-and-file Catholics have pressed the Vatican to allow divorced faithful who remarry to receive Communion. The Vatican has stood firm, contending only if remarried Catholics forsake sex can they receive Communion. Catholics can only remarry in the Church if their first marriage is annulled, essentially a declaration the initial union never existed.
Some hope a major Vatican meeting next month on family concerns might lead to permission for divorced Catholics who remarry to receive Communion. Francis has reportedly told a woman in his Argentine homeland whose husband's first marriage wasn't annulled she was free of sin and should take Communion anyway. The Vatican quickly clarified that the pope's private conversations don't reflect church policy.
Sunday's weddings performed by Francis could also be seen by status-quo defenders as the Vatican's way of stressing that marriage, because it is a sacrament, should endure. One by one, the 20 couples were called by name by Francis, who asked if they'd be faithful for the rest of their lives.
Frances D'Emilio is on Twitter at www.twitter.com/fdemilio.