Lionel Messi. Credit moonisblack via Shutterstock.
An Argentine diocesan official has clarified that the local archbishop did not deny a sacramental Catholic wedding to Argentinian soccer player Lionel “Leo” Messi and his girlfriend, Antonella Roccuzzo. Rather, the archbishop forbid that a Catholic wedding for the couple be celebrated in a casino chapel, per Church norms. Some reports about the couple's wedding, such as those from the international sports media company AS, had claimed that “The Archbishop forbids Messi and Antonella to marry in the Church.” However, the Episcopal Delegate of Communication for the Archdiocese of Rosario, Fr. Rubén Bellante, told CNA that “neither the family of Messi nor the bride asked for a place in any parish in the city of Rosario, nor in the Cathedral either.” “At no time did Archbishop Eduardo Eliseo Martín deny the possibility of the Sacrament of Marriage,” he said. Messi, star of Barcelona FC soccer team and one of the best players in the world, had a civil marriage ceremony at the City Center Casino Complex, south of Rosario, Argentina on June 30 with 260 guests. The wedding was attended by well-known soccer figures and celebrities (such as Shakira) from various parts of the world. Messi met Antonella when he was just 5 years old, but officially their relationship started in 2008. The couple has two children: Thiago, age 4, and Mateo, age 1. The archbishop intervened in the Messi's wedding only when he was made aware that the couple was planning to construct a chapel in a casino and to have a priest facilitate the ceremony, Fr. Bellante said. The Archbishop banned the priest from facilitating a marriage at the casino. This is in keeping with Church tradition, as it is rare for the Church to approve requests for a Catholic marriage ceremony outside of a Catholic church. Fr. Bellante added that Archbishop Martin suggested that a sacramental marriage for Messi may have been possible in a private house, if such a thing had been requested and were necessary for reasons such as security. However, Messi himself never made requests to any parish in the archdiocese for a sacramental marriage, the priest said. Fr. Bellante added that Archbishop Martín “would be happy” to provide Messi with the Sacrament of Marriage if it were requested and held in an approved place. “The doors remain open and the truth is that the archbishop told me yesterday: If, when they return to Rosario next year for their vacations...want to receive the Sacrament of Marriage, it would be offered with pleasure,” he said.