Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta


Tribunal offers sessions on ‘Marriage, Annulment and the RCIA’

By KARREN DE BOW, Special to the Bulletin | Published August 4, 2016

SMYRNA—A June 11 presentation by the Metropolitan Tribunal on “Marriage, Annulment and the RCIA” for RCIA parish directors, team members and adult confirmation teams drew a fantastic response and exceeded all expectations.

One hundred people registered for the two-hour session using online registration. They represented 42 parishes and missions of the Archdiocese of Atlanta. Eight priests, 21 deacons, and a religious sister were among those attending. People from parishes in Dahlonega, Athens, Dallas and Jackson traveled the farthest.

The main purpose was to provide those preparing to welcome new RCIA candidates and catechumens an opportunity to learn more about marriage, annulments and the RCIA so that they may be more acutely aware of some of the situations they will continue to face. Tribunal staff also wanted to make people more aware of resources available within the Tribunal and across the archdiocese to assist those entering the church. The timing seemed opportune as RCIA programs may be in the planning stages for the upcoming year when they will welcome those seeking to enter the Catholic Church next Easter.

The session started at 9 a.m. on Saturday. The staff of the Tribunal is appreciative of the many persons who serve those who seek to come into full communion with the church and those who have an interest in joining the Catholic Church in this vital ministry. Bishop Luis R. Zarama, judicial vicar, expressed his appreciation and enthusiasm to the many gathered during his heartfelt address to them as he opened the session.

Bishop Zarama reminded them of the importance of the role they play and the opportunity they have to accompany these individuals on their faith journeys. He also mentioned their responsibility to be open and honest with the people before them about the church’s teaching on marriage. For those who had prior marriages and those who may be in marriages with spouses who were married before, right from the start let them know that they, their parishes and staff at the Tribunal are here to help, Bishop Zarama said, but we are not to make promises as each situation will need to be explored and addressed. Participants at the session were there to learn information to better serve these individuals.

Spanish session also offered

In addition to Bishop Zarama’s address, four speakers engaged the many who attended on topics of marriage, baptism, annulments, and Eastern rite Catholics. Catholic teachings, some which date back to the Book of Genesis, were highlighted as well as changes Pope Francis made with a “motu proprio” in late 2015 which affected annulments and the pastoral care of those who have been married before and are currently in marriages with prior marriages. During the session, attendees received first-hand current information on the effects of these changes.

The speakers were Msgr. Stephen T. Churchwell, adjutant judicial vicar, Luis Capacetti, court administrator for the Metropolitan Tribunal, Charles Jones, advocate, and Father Dominique Hanna, defender of the bond. Father Hanna is pastor of St. Joseph Maronite Catholic Church in Atlanta. Participants learned that his church, for example, is the territorial parish for all Maronite Catholics living in Georgia. He provided information on Eastern rite Catholics, of which there are over 20 churches, who may be living in Georgia, attending local parishes and entering RCIA programs or who may be seeking to marry and receive sacraments for themselves and their children. Father Hanna pointed out that as the crisis in the Middle East continues parishes are likely to encounter more Eastern rite Catholics and need to be ready to embrace them.

After the morning session for 100, the session was offered in Spanish by Luis Capacetti. Fifteen people registered and were welcomed. The session ran from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. featuring the same materials and allowing participants to learn about and ask questions on these pertinent topics.

Two August sessions planned

The Tribunal is appreciative of Cathy Marbury and her team in the archdiocesan Office of Formation and Discipleship for their support in reaching the many individuals who serve in the RCIA ministry across the archdiocese.

There are currently two additional sessions on “Marriage, Annulment and the RCIA” scheduled for Saturday, Aug. 20, and Friday, Aug. 26, and they are open. Both start at 9 a.m.

Team members and directors from the other 46 parishes and missions, as well as anyone else who missed the June 11 session, are encouraged to come and to avail themselves of the opportunity to enhance their knowledge on these topics first-hand.

The Tribunal staff again thanks those who were able to take the time on June 11, traveling distances and making it to the Chancery. This is a testimony to the dedication of these individuals to this ministry and a reflection of the pastoral care and concern of the many religious who were in attendance. In this Jubilee Year of Mercy, all who attended reflected back to others the mercy God has shown to them by giving of themselves.

Karren De Bow is a member of the staff of the Metropolitan Tribunal of the Atlanta Archdiocese. To register for the August sessions, contact her at or visit