Page last updated at 23:10 GMT, Wednesday, 20 June 2007 00:10 UK

Vatican backs ex-Kennedy wife

Joseph P Kennedy II - 1997 file photo
Joseph Kennedy obtained the annulment in 1996

The Vatican has declined to agree to the annulment of former US Congressman Joseph P Kennedy II's first marriage after an appeal by his ex-wife.

Mr Kennedy divorced Sheila Rauch in 1991. He subsequently married again and later obtained a ruling in favour of annulment from the Boston Archdiocese.

Ms Rauch alleged that the Kennedy family had used its influence in the Church to try to obtain the annulment.

Mr Kennedy is the nephew of President John F Kennedy, assassinated in 1963.

His father, Robert Kennedy, was in turn murdered in 1968 as he campaigned for the Democratic Party's nomination for presidential candidate.

"The annulment decision totally overlooked the fact that I felt that we had a very strong marriage in the beginning, we had two wonderful children, and it lasted," said Ms Rauch, who appealed to the Vatican.

The Vatican's tribunal, the Roman Rota, overturned the initial decision in favour of annulment by the Marriage Tribunal of the Archdiocese of Boston.

The Vatican reached its decision in 2005 and informed her in May, Ms Rauch said.

She received the notification in Latin and had it translated by the archdiocese of Boston, the Boston Globe newspaper says.

Mr Kennedy has made no comment on the Vatican's decision.

An annulment declares a marriage to have been invalid, allowing a person to marry again in the Roman Catholic Church and receive the sacraments.

Mr Kennedy served in the US House of Representatives from 1987 to 1999.

An earlier version of this article contained inaccuracies which were corrected in July and August 2007. A ruling on the article and the BBC's handling of a reader's complaint about it was issued by the BBC Trust's Editorial Standards Committee in April 2008.

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