What happens when the first husband of a remarried Catholic dies?

My mother was married in the Catholic Church for less than a year by an arranged marriage to an older man many years ago. Several years after they divorced, she and my father were married in a civil ceremony, yet continued to practice their faith without benefit of the sacraments and raised six children in the Church. Recently, my mother learned that her divorced husband had died. What is her status now as a Catholic? Can she receive the sacraments again? Can she and my father (now married civilly for 59 years) be married in the Catholic Church? They are both in their 80s. My mother is also concerned that she needs to talk to an official of the Church to get approval of her change in status if there is one. Can you help?

If her first husband has died and there are no other impediments to marriage, your mother is now free to marry in the Church. She and your father should explain the situation to their pastor, go to confession, and arrange to have their legal marriage recognized in the Church. Given their age and the length of their legal marriage, I doubt that it would take much time for their marriage to be regularized.

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