Perhaps the only major newspaper in the world to be mum on the marriage of Mrs. John F. Kennedy to Aristotle Onassis was the Vatican’s Osservatore Romano.

Its silence was the loudest announcement of church embarrassment over the marriage of Mrs. Kennedy, one of its most noted members and widow of the first Roman Catholic to be U. S. President, to a divorcé.

Mrs. Kennedy, now Mrs. Onassis, put the Catholic Church in a tight spot. Public pressures flared quickly for Vatican approval of the union. But that seemed just short of impossible. For the church to close its eyes to its ancient laws to accommodate one celebrity would both crack its credibility and open the way for many other Catholics to remarry.

If the public sought church approval, Mrs. Onassis apparently did not. She presumably knows well the intricacies of church marital laws, since her sister, Lee, obtained an annulment of her marriage to actor Michael Canfield from the Sacred Rota in Rome, to marry Prince Stanislaus Radziwell. Their mother is also divorced, and remarried a divorcé.

Vatican officials appeared at first to seek a way out, when they suggested that an annulment of Onassis’ first marriage by his Greek Orthodox Church might ease the predicament.

“The church would like to be in a position to show understanding,” a high Vatican source said.

One main problem: There is no such thing as annulment in the Greek church.

A later Vatican statement was more rigid. News agencies quoted Vatican spokesman Monsignor Fausto Valainc as saying: “Mrs. Kennedy is not a child and therefore she must know perfectly well what are the laws of her church. Therefore, if she is not a child and not out of her mind she must have known that she could not legally marry Mr. Onassis. It is ...

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