VATICAN CITY -- The Vatican announced Wednesday that Princess Caroline of Monaco has obtained an annulment of her 1978 marriage to French businessman Philippe Junot.
A statement issued by Chief Vatican Press Spokesman Joaquin Navarro Valls said a Vatican appeal tribunal confirmed the annulment on June 20, after it was originally approved by an earlier tribunal Feb. 27.
Princess Caroline, the elder daughter of Prince Rainier and the late Princess Grace of Monaco, married Junot as her first husband June 23, 1978. The couple obtained a civil divorce in October 1980.
The Vatican does not permit divorce, so Caroline started her application for a Vatican annulment in 1982.
As the daughter of a reigning monarch, church rules permitted her to apply directly to Pope John Paul II, rather than to the Sacred Roman Rota, which ordinarily handles annulment applications.
While her case was under study, Caroline, now 36, married Italian businessman Stefano Casiraghi, four years her junior, in December 1983 and they had two children. Casiraghi was killed about two years ago while competing in a power boat race off Monte Carlo.
The Vatican statement stressed that the Roman Catholic Church considers marriage to be 'indissoluble.' An annulment means that the marriage never existed for one or more of three reasons accepted by the church's Canon Law.
It cited these reasons as, existing impediments in the particular case, a defect in the form of the marriage ceremony or 'insufficiency of consensus.' The Vatican did not say which of these reasons were accepted in the case of Caroline and Junot.
'Such annulment differs radically from divorce,' the statement said. 'Divorce claims to dissolve what has been validly contracted.
The investigation of nullity seeks, instead, to ascertain whether from the beginning a particular marriage was not 'validly celebrated for one or more of the cited motives.'
The annulment meant Princess Caroline was free to get married in the church and to take part in all church sacraments.
The statement quoted Pope John Paul as saying in a 1986 speech: 'The church, with this judicial activity, seeks to carry out a dutiful pastoral mission, not only ascertaininbg the truth, but also restoring serenity and peace to believers, where the necessary conditions are met. '
The Vatican said the annulment will become fully effective 'when the interested parties are formally notified.'