1. About the Tribunal
A tribunal, which is the official ecclesiastical court of the Catholic Church, is established in each diocese by the bishop to assist him in carrying out his responsibility as shepherd of the local Christian community which has been entrusted to him (1983 Code of Canon Law canons 369, 1419). As the judicial arm of the bishop, the diocesan tribunal cooperates in his ministry, namely, "the salvation of souls, which must always be the supreme law of the Church" (canon 1752).
The Catholic Church presumes all marriages are valid. Therefore, the previous marriage/s of an individual, even if not Catholic at the time they married, must be studied in order to determine freedom or lack of freedom to marry. A declaration of nullity/invalidity is necessary when a previously married person wishes to enter a Catholic marriage. All previously married individuals have a right to seek clarification of the status of a previous marriage. The trained personnel at the Ecclesiastical Marriage Tribunal of the Apostolic Vicariate of Northern Arabia are delegated to act on behalf of the Archbishop of Bombay and the Apostolic Vicar of Northern Arabia. They seek justice, the protections of rights, and the clarification of obligations for all who approach the Tribunal.
Church law, properly called canon law, safeguards the indissolubility of the sacrament of marriage. By law, a marriage is presumed valid until proven otherwise by positive proof (canon 1060). A declaration of nullity is rendered when the marriage is determined to be invalid. The procedures utilized by the tribunal are grounded in canon law, Sacred Scripture and the authentic teaching of the Church. While the process is judicial, it is the commitment of the tribunal personnel to demonstrate a pastoral attitude and regard for those who submit cases for adjudication.
2. The Tribunal in the Gulf:
The Apostolic Vicariates in the Gulf lacked personnel trained in Canon Law, so at the request of Bishop Micallef, Apostolic Vicar of Kuwait, and with the consent of Cardinal Pimenta, Archbishop of Bombay, the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, Rome, in a Decree dated June 4, 1990, granted the Competence to the Metropolitan Tribunal of the Archdiocese of Bombay to deal with marriage cases in the Vicariate of Kuwait for a period of 10 years. Later, through a Decree dated January 14, 1991, the Apostolic Signatura also granted the Metropolitan Tribunal of the Archdiocese of Bombay competence to deal with marriage cases in the Apostolic Vicariate of Arabia. Again, in a Decree dated July 24, 2000 the Apostolic Signatura renewed the competence granted to Bombay for marriage cases in Kuwait donec aliter provideatur. From February 1989 onward, Bishop Oswald Gracias, Fr. Bernard Rodricks, Fr. Savio Fernandes, Fr. Jervis D'Souza, Ms. Colette Oliveira and several others, made regular visits in the Gulf and handled marriage cases of both the Vicariates until Fr. Antony Lopez, OFM Cap., arrived in Abu Dhabi in June 2005.
At the request of His Excellency, Bishop Paul Hinder, Apostolic Vicar of Arabia, with the consent of His Grace, Ivan Cardinal Dias, Archbishop of Bombay, in his letter dated September 26, 2005, appointed Fr. Antony Lopez, OFM Cap., JCD., as a Diocesan Judge for the Metropolitan Tribunal of the Archdiocese of Bombay, with regard to cases in the Vicariate Apostolic of Arabia for an indefinite period. Similarly, Msgr. Francis C. Jamieson as Defender of the Bond accredited to the Bombay Tribunal for the Vicariate cases.
Further, at the request of His Excellency, Bishop Paul Hinder, OFM Cap. STD., with the consent of His Grace Oswald Cardinal Gracias, Archbishop of Bombay, in his letter dated February 07, 2007, reconfirmed the appointment made by His Grace Ivan Cardinal Dias, for Fr. Antony Lopez, OFM Cap., as a Diocesan Judge accredited to the Archdiocesan Tribunal of Bombay, and Msgr. Francis C. Jamieson as Defender of the Bond. These appointments were renewed and His Grace confirmed them "usque ad revoctionem".
On May 31st, 2011, the Arabian Peninsula was reorganized as two vicariates: North and South. The Apostolic Vicariate of Southern Arabia is comprised of UAE, Oman and Yemen, whereas the Apostolic Vicariate of Northern Arabia is comprised of Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, and Fr. Antony Lopez, was invited to Kuwait, the Northern Arabia.
At the request of His Excellency, Bishop Camillo Ballin, MCCJ, His Grace, Oswald Cardinal Gracias, Archbishop of Bombay, in his letter dated August 13th, 2012, appointed Fr. Antony Lopez, OFM Cap. JCD., as Diocesan Judge for the Metropolitan Tribunal of the Archdiocese of Bombay, with regard to cases in the Apostolic Vicariate of Northern Arabia. Similarly, Fr. Joseph Panakkalody OFM Cap., JCL., appointed as Defender of the Bond accredited to the Bombay Tribunal for the Vicariate cases.
Further, H.E. Bishop Camillo Ballin, MCCJ, through his letters dated 03.08.2012 & 13.08.2012, appointed Fr. Albert Saveriraj, OCD., LLM., as Auditor and Notary for the marriage tribunal of the Apostolic Vicariate of the Northern Arabia.
3. The Tribunal Personnel
i. Judicial Vicar : Rev. Fr. Emmanuel K.T. (Resides in Bombay)
ii. Judge : Rev. Dr. Antony Lopez, OFM Cap., JCD
iii. Defender of the Bond : Rev. Fr. Albert Saveriraj, OCD., LLM
iv. Auditor : Mr. Lawrence J. Cordeiro
v. Auditor : Rev. Dr. Antony Lopez, OFM Cap., JCD
vi. Auditor : Rev. Fr. Albert Saveriraj, OCD., LLM
vii. Notary : Rev. Fr. Dominic Santamaria
viii. Notary : Mrs. Blossom D. Cordeiro
ix. Notary : Mrs. Edna Menezes, Bombay
4. What is a Catholic marriage?
Catholic marriage, also called Matrimony, is a "covenant by which a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership of the whole of life and which is ordered by its nature to the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring. It has been raised by Christ the Lord to the dignity of a sacrament between the baptised." (CIC 1055§1) In other words, marriage is an exclusive and permanent partnership between a man and a woman in which they mutually give and accept each other to share a community of life and love, and for procreation and upbringing of children in a family. Marriage is not just a mere legal contract but it is a sacred covenant between two persons totally committed to each other. Christian marriage has been raised by Christ to the dignity of a Sacrament, by reason of which the properties of unity and indissolubility of the bond between the partners acquire a distinctive firmness. The Catholic Church respects all marriages regardless of a person's religion, and considers them as valid.
5. What is a declaration of nullity?
An ecclesiastical declaration of nullity or Church "annulment" is a formal statement by the Catholic church, after a careful study of the circumstances surrounding a marriage, that a marriage bond never existed in the first place and that the parties are consequently not bound to that relationship. In entering marriage, the two parties must bring to the relationship certain intentions and capabilities in order to form a permanent and exclusive union of life. Without these intentions and capabilities there can be no true marriage despite external appearances and rites.
6. Who can file a petition for a declaration of nullity?
According to Canon Law, either of the spouses, Catholic or non-Catholic, can apply a petition for a declaration of nullity in the competent ecclesiastical tribunal to investigate whether his or her marriage is null. However, before the Church Tribunal can consider a case, it must be clear that there is no possibility for reconciliation between the parties. A civil divorce is considered sufficient proof that the parties cannot be reconciled. The party concerned should first contact one of the Tribunal personnel to seek assistance in drafting the formal petition.
If you would like to read up some more on this topic, please click here:
Catholic Marriage and Annulments
What does the Catholic Catechism teach about:
The Sacrament of Matrimony