VATICAN says archbishop who wed plans to return to the Church, wife pleads to see him

Saturday, August 11th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

VATICAN CITY (AP) _ The Vatican announced Saturday that Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo, who scandalized the church by getting married, was planning to fully reconcile with the church.

Meanwhile, Milingo's new wife _ who accompanied him to Rome but has been kept apart from him for nearly a week as he met the pope and Vatican officials _ tearfully pleaded to be allowed to see her husband and threatened to go on a hunger strike.

``I am afraid that my husband is not free to speak with me,'' Sung told a press conference at a Rome hotel, reading from a prepared statement in Italian. ``I am asking the church that my husband loves to tell me where he is.''

Milingo and his wife traveled to Italy last week, and Milingo held at least one audience with Pope John Paul II to discuss his reasons for getting married in one of the Rev. Sun Myung Moon's group weddings. Milingo has said priests need not be celibate and that God's blessings were meant to be given through the family.

After the meeting, the Vatican suspended its threat to throw Milingo out of the church while talks continued. The Vatican had previously said Milingo faced excommunication if he didn't leave his wife by Aug. 20, sever his ties with Moon's movement, publicly promise to remain celibate and ``manifest his obedience to the Supreme Pontiff.''

In a statement Saturday, the Vatican's orthodoxy watchdog _ the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith _ said Milingo had decided to reconcile after meeting with the pope and being reminded ``of his responsibilities to God and the church.''

``After the lamentable events to which he was a protagonist, he has decided to take a period of reflection and prayer in view of his total reconciliation,'' the statement said.

Milingo has said he doesn't want to leave the church that he loves, and after his meeting Tuesday with the pope said he was going to take time to reflect and pray.

But he said he would have to consult his wife before deciding what to do next. ``By this time, I am no longer single and I must consider another person _ my wife _ and her human rights,'' he told reporters Tuesday.

However, officials with Moon's movement in Italy said Saturday that Sung had not seen Milingo since Monday, and that their attempts to find him through his Italian handlers had failed.

Sung said she didn't know where Milingo was and that she had spoken to him briefly on Wednesday. ``He told me he was facing a difficult fight, and that he was not free to talk, but would call back soon,'' she said.

Milingo has long been at odds with the Catholic hierarchy.

He was archbishop of Lusaka, the capital of Zambia, when he ran afoul of the Vatican over his faith healing and exorcisms. He resigned under pressure in 1983.

Milingo then was brought to Rome as a functionary in the Pontifical Council for Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant Peoples, but continued public healing and exorcism. Last year, he was quietly retired from that post.