The news: In his 18-month tenure, Pope Francis has been making increasingly progressive calls for the inclusion of "canonically irregular" families in the Catholic church, such as divorced people and same-sex couples — and now, his words are being translated into action.
On Saturday, the pontiff officiated the weddings of 20 couples at the Vatican, the first ceremony of this kind since his papacy began. The best part: Some of the couples were unconventional by traditional Catholic standards, having already lived together and had children. But instead of making a big deal about these differences, the pope and the church instead chose to focus on the universality of love and faith.
"The path is not always a smooth one, free of disagreements, otherwise it would not be human. It is a demanding journey, at times difficult, and at times turbulent, but such is life," the pope said in a homily. "Marriage is a symbol of life, real life, not some TV show."
Why this is important: Moving the Catholic church into the 21st century and embracing traditionally marginalized people in the congregation have been key agenda items for Francis. Previously, the pope has signaled willingness to allow for gay clergy members and to get rid of priest celibacy, and this latest move to wed nontraditional couples fits in well with this trajectory.
It will still be a long time before any of these suggestions come to pass: Just because Francis is receptive to an idea doesn't mean he's going to put it on the Vatican agenda. Wheels of change grind slowly, especially for a millennia-old institution like the church.
Still, Francis' calls for tolerance and inclusiveness mark a significant departure from his traditionalist predecessor, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI and indicate that, just maybe, change is afoot at the heart of one of the oldest religious institutions in the world. And that's an encouraging thought.