VATICAN CITY, Sept. 14 (UPI) -- Pope Francis presided over 20 marriages Sunday, including men and women who had cohabited and at least one couple with a child from the bride's previous marriage.
The BBC reports that Francis asked for 40 people from diverse social backgrounds representing "modern couples" to be married in the St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. It was the first ceremony of its kind in over a decade; the last time was in 2000 during a wedding presided over by Pope John Paul II.
One of the couples in Sunday's ceremony featured a man from an annulled marriage and a woman with a daughter from a previous union.
Pope Francis, a Jesuit, has been outspoken about his views, which are considered progressive compared to usual Catholic doctrine. In a homily delivered on Vatican Radio the day of the marriages, he emphasized a message of forgiveness:
"The cure which God offers the people applies also, in a particular way, to spouses who 'have become impatient on the way' and who succumb to the dangerous temptation of discouragement, infidelity, weakness, abandonment... To them too, God the Father gives his Son Jesus, not to condemn them, but to save them..."
In three weeks a synod will be held in the Vatican, where Catholic bishops will converge to discuss family issues such as divorce and contraception.