VATICAN says married archbishop giving up wife, will return to Catholic Church

Tuesday, August 14th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

VATICAN CITY (AP) _ A Zambian archbishop whose marriage scandalized the Vatican is leaving his wife and returning to the Roman Catholic Church, the Vatican said Tuesday, quoting the archbishop as having told the pope: ``I am your humble and obedient servant.''

Ignoring his celibacy vow, Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo was married in a mass ceremony conducted by the Rev. Sun Myung Moon on May 27 in New York. The Vatican said Milingo also was breaking his ties to Moon.

The case not only embarrassed the Vatican but also raised concerns that Milingo might break from the church and consecrate his own _ noncelibate _ bishops.

The Vatican released a brief letter it said the 71-year-old Milingo wrote Saturday to Pope John Paul II announcing the decisions, which followed talks with Vatican officials.

The letter said Milingo was recommitting his life ``in the Catholic church with all my heart, renouncing my living together with Maria Sung and my relationship with the Rev. Moon and the Family Federation for World Peace.''

``I am your humble and obedient servant,'' the letter to the pope said.

The Vatican released the letter a few hours after the woman Milingo married, Maria Sung, said she has begun fasting to force Vatican officials to reunite her with her husband. She said she would renounce food ``until he is free to meet me or until I die.''

``If he says he wants to leave me, in his own voice, I'm sure he's under the effect of drugs,'' she told reporters after the Vatican announcement. ``I will continue fasting until I die and my spirit will be near him.''

The Rev. Phillip Schanker of Moon's church denounced the Vatican for ``arrogantly trying to steal her husband.''

``This is not the Middle Ages,'' he said. ``He can get in a car and be with her in one hour.''

Sung says she has been kept apart from her husband since they came together to the Vatican and Milingo met with the pope last week.

The Vatican has not disclosed Milingo's whereabouts, saying only that he is on a spiritual retreat and that he should be left alone to pray.

Sung, a 43-year-old South Korean doctor, suggested Monday that she may be pregnant. But she said she was not worried about possible health risks from her fast and will only drink water.

Both she and Milingo have dodged questions whether the marriage performed by Moon was actually registered in New York City.

Milingo had been threatened with excommunication for marrying Sung. He has said priests need not be celibate and that God's blessings were meant to be given through the family.

The excommunication order was released on July 17 by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which enforces Roman Catholic doctrine.

It gave Milingo until Aug. 20 to leave his wife, sever his ties with Moon's movement, publicly promise to remain celibate and ``manifest his obedience to the Supreme Pontiff.''

The order also said: ``The Church, obliged as she is to proceed to this painful action for the good of the faithful, does not cease to pray to the Lord, the Good Shepherd, for the desired return of the archbishop.''

Most Catholics consider Moon's doctrines well beyond the bounds of traditional Christianity. For instance, Moon's followers regard Moon as the messiah who is completing the salvation Jesus Christ failed to accomplish.

In each of the past two years, Milingo has appeared at group weddings conducted by Moon. The rituals, called ``Holy Blessing Ceremonies,'' are a central practice of Moon's religion, and Moon arranges the marriages personally.