Pope Francis has created a commission to study how to safeguard what the church calls the everlasting bonds of marriage while streamlining annulment procedures.

Vatican teaching, while forbidding divorce, allows Catholics to have marriages annulled if church tribunals rule that the unions for specific reasons weren't valid in the first place and thus are void.

Francis decided last month to establish a special commission to draft proposals on reforming church marriage law, but the Vatican only announced it on Saturday.

The timing appears linked to a major Vatican gathering of bishops next month on family issues and appeals to allow divorced Catholics who remarry to receive Communion.

The Vatican said the new commission will explore how to simplify the church's complex annulments while safeguarding the principle that marriage is "everlasting."