Geneva: Sepp Blatter, who weathered corruption allegations to remain the most powerful man in world soccer, is taking on a new opponent that he may find more difficult to defeat — the Roman Catholic Church.
The twice-divorced Fifa president is furious that his new wife, Graziella, is being treated as a sinner for marrying him, even though she has never been married before.
Blatter has written to his local bishop urging him to intercede with the Pope on behalf of divorced Catholics who want to remarry “because they believe in the miracle of love”.
Blatter, 67, married Graziella, 40, a former dolphin trainer, in a civil ceremony on December 23.
He told the Lausanne daily Le Matin Thursday that he is not seeking a church ceremony but is trying to protect his wife, who converted from Protestantism before their marriage.
“I am defending my wife against hypocrisy and injustice,” Blatter told the paper. “What did the Lord say to those who wanted to stone Mary Magdalene' Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.”
In a letter to the bishop of Sion, Monsignor Norbert Brunner, Blatter said he was “doubtful of a Church that shuts out people who have made mistakes and yet calls itself a Church of forgiveness”.
“God is the God of love. Is this also the Church of love,” he added.
Brunner declined to comment, pointing out that he does not have the power to annul earlier marriages — a requirement before Blatter’s most recent marriage could be approved by the Church.
Catholics do not recognise divorce, so Blatter is considered to be still married to his first wife, even though she has since remarried. His second wife died in 1999.
Blatter’s first marriage took place in a Catholic Church, while his second marriage was a civil ceremony. He has one daughter, Corinne, who introduced Graziella to her father.
In his letter to Brunner, Blatter said he and his new wife pray together and go to church together.
“But now, when we wanted to have our married blessed before God and the Church, she — a single woman — has been branded as an adulteress. Even though it’s I who have broken my marriage vows and not Graziella,” he said.
“At first I was so angry that I wanted to leave the Catholic Church immediately. But that isn’t in my character. I am a fighter,” he said in the letter.
Blatter fended off a challenge from Issa Hayatou of Cameroon to win a second term as Fifa president in an election last May.
During the campaign, his opponents claimed that he was guilty of corruption and mismanagement within Fifa, allegations that Blatter denied.
He has since reorganised staff at the world soccer authority to consolidate his power.