• Pope urges faster annulment process that is free of charge

“Sometimes, it can even be morally necessary, when it’s about shielding the weaker spouse or young children from more serious injuries caused by intimidation and violence, humiliation and exploitation, neglect and indifference.”

The Jesuit pope acknowledged that separation and divorce had created many “so-called irregular families, even if I don’t like this word”.

The Church needed to work out how best it could help people in such situations, and in particular to seek ways to avoid children becoming “hostages of daddy or mummy”.

A gust of wind blows away Pope Francis’ skullcap (Reuters)

The Pope has shown a more inclusive, compassionate approach to issues such as divorce and homosexuality since being elected two years ago, though he has stopped short of introducing any doctrinal changes.

Liberals within the Catholic Church are hoping for a further shift of stance at the three-week-long synod in October, when bishops from around the world will gather in Rome.

But the Vatican released a working paper earlier this week which suggested that reformists will be disappointed.

The document, a sort of road map which sets out the key topics to be debated, indicated that there will be no change to the current ban on receiving communion for Catholics who have divorced and then remarried.

In the eyes of the Church, their divorces are not valid and they are therefore living in sin with their new partners in adulterous relationships.

The document also suggested that the Vatican will not alter its view of homosexual sex as a sin nor soften its opposition to gay adoption and gay marriage.

Pope says it can be ‘morally necessary’ for couples to split – Telegraph