The Vatican reversed the annulment of former Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy II's first marriage, a union that had lasted 12 years and produced two sons.

Sheila Rauch on Wednesday confirmed a report on Time magazine's Web site that her appeal of the annulment to Rome has succeeded.

"I'm very grateful that the marriage was validated," she told The Associated Press.

Rauch had sharply criticized the Catholic church for annulling her marriage, alleging in a 1997 book that the Kennedy family's influence in the church had made it possible.

Rauch and Kennedy, the eldest son of the late Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, were granted a civil divorce in 1991.

She said she found out about the annulment only after Kennedy married his former congressional aide, Beth Kelly, in a civil ceremony two years later.

"The (original) 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," Rauch said Wednesday. "I was certainly happy in the beginning. ... things unraveled, but that doesn't mean you didn't have a marriage."

Rauch said she was told of the Vatican's decision to reverse the annulment by officials from the Boston Archdiocese in May, although the decision was actually reached in 2005.

Terry Donilon, a spokesman for the Boston Archdiocese, declined comment. "Such matters are appropriately private and confidential," he said.

A spokeswoman for Kennedy had no immediate comment.

Kennedy served in Congress from 1987 to 1999. He had been considered a favorite for Massachusetts governor in the late 1990s, but after several months of family trouble and bad publicity, including publication of his ex-wife's book, "Shattered Faith," he decided not to run.

Since leaving Congress, Kennedy has worked as president of Citizens Energy Corp., a non-profit company he founded to provide low-cost heating oil to the poor and elderly.