'I'll have no more inquisitions'

What possessed a Catholic archbishop to take a bride in one of the Rev Moon's controversial mass weddings?

The Daily Telegraph/June 14, 2001
By Charles Laurence

Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo is getting a big cuddle from his wife of just one week, and looking rather alarmed. This is because the 71- year-old is a priest of the Church of Rome and has been celibate throughout his life. He is not used to the warm affections of a wife, and as Maria Sung - the new Mrs Milingo - puts an arm around his waist, slipping her hand under his black suit jacket and pressing her smiling face to his chest, he seems confused about what to do with his hands.

As if getting married were not controversial enough, Milingo decided to do it at a mass wedding conducted by the Rev Sun Myung Moon of the Unification Church, which is not at all the same organisation as the Roman Catholic Church.

Milingo looks down at his bride, puts his own arm cautiously around her shoulder and then looks up with a big beaming smile full of fine white teeth. It is a touching moment. We are standing under a glaring neon cross hung above a church in the old Hell's Kitchen district of Manhattan, and the archbishop is beginning to relax.

He loves the cross. On one side, it reads: "Get right with God" and that, he chuckles, is just what he has devoted his life to doing. On the other side, facing Times Square, it blazes out a stark warning in red neon: "Sin will find you out."

It is a matter of debate which of these messages applies in the case of the archbishop, who felt his calling while tending cattle on the grasslands of Zambia in the Forties. He has been at odds with the Vatican for 20 years, and has long been known as the Voodoo Priest, because of the way he tailored Catholicism to suit his African flock - entire services would be devoted to faith healing, exorcism and speaking in tongues. Unsurprisingly, he was recalled to Rome in the early Eighties, to be kept under the watchful eye of the Curia.

But he knows that the Vatican might think that, in flouting his priestly obligation to celibacy, he has gone too far this time. A few hundred years ago, they would have been stacking up the kindling - the thought makes him chuckle. "If I am called before the Pope, I will go," he says, "but I will have no more of inquisitions. And if I do see His Holiness, then I will explain that I have made some noise, OK, but it is the Church that must come to terms with the need for marriage in modern times."

Milingo is clearly tired after concluding a meeting with some visitors from Rome, who suggested that he had been kidnapped and brainwashed by Moon, but he is ready for a bit of cut and thrust with his Church. "Let us understand this," he begins. "I am still chaste. In the Rev Moon's church, we must be chaste for 40 days after marriage. This is so that we may get to know each other as brother and sister. This form of marriage is a very strong way of fighting sex. There is a lot of chastity in the Rev Moon's teaching."

Mrs Milingo is a small, well-rounded woman of 43 with a big smile and the warm, easy-going manner of a nurse - in fact, she has had a thriving career as an acupuncturist. Her full name is Sung Ryae Soon. Like Moon, she comes from South Korea and she had been a member of his Church for years before being nominated for duty as a bride.

In broken English and with nervous glances for approval, she makes it clear that she believes her marriage to be a matter of divine destiny, a union ordered by God and Moon, and that she certainly plans to fulfill her vows when her 40 days of waiting are up.

We sit in a steel-and-glass diner in the heart of Manhattan, sipping tea and lemonade. The night blares with the din of Mammon beyond the window. "Delaying consummation may seem very hard," the archbishop says. "And I know that, from the outside, it looks impossible." I find myself in the rather odd position of asking an elderly Roman Catholic bishop if, well will he? And has he ever?

Milingo is not embarrassed. In fact, he is enjoying himself. "Whether we have children in this union will be up to God," he says. "But the Bible records that Abraham became a father at 100, so it is possible, if God wills it." And as for the second question, the answer is "no."

"I had no chance," he says. "I was herding cattle - a shepherd, you see - when I was eight, and then, at 12, I went away to school at the seminary. And then, at 28, I was ordained a priest. So you might say I have been celibate since I was 12, and it has been a struggle, yes, but it is one I have overcome with much prayer and fasting."

Sex clearly remains in the realm of theory and dogma. But Milingo knows his stuff when it comes to tangling with cardinals and Popes. In the Seventies, he was a hugely popular Archbishop of Lusaka whose methods were rather more violent and literal than the Church had grown used to in the West. His congregation would be a writhing, dancing mass; eyes rolling, demons shrieking, spirits babbling in unknown tongues, and the blessed fainting away in holy ecstasy.

Milingo dubbed this his healing ministry. "I discovered the gift of receiving the Holy Spirit in a most direct way, and of healing," he explains. "I knew this to be my mission. The problem is that the Church has never accepted my mission."

Milingo's critics feared that he had crossed the line from a useful "Africanisation" of European orthodoxy to a new version of voodoo. Something, it seemed, had gone to the head of a once promising priest. "I received this message from God in 1973, and my life changed," he says. "Many, many people were healed by my gift. But the reaction of the Devil was indeed terrible.

The Church said I must choose between preaching and healing. They did not understand what it was that God wanted from me." Milingo's apparently successful exorcisms were of particular concern. Shortly after he had been consecrated as archbishop, a woman visited him in a pitiful state, convinced that her newborn child had been so deeply invaded by the spirit of an animal that he was no longer human.

The species of animal remains unclear, but Milingo suspected the work of a demon. He began to pray. "For three days, I prayed and meditated and prayed and the woman was terribly tormented. But I could feel the enemy, I could feel the force in my hands, it was as tangible as the presence of the Lord.

I succeeded in touching that woman, and I touched the Devil that day, and I cast him out. And that began 30 years of exorcisms." The sort of folk who frequent New York diners late into the night have fallen silent around us, their eyes wide and their heads nodding with enthusiasm. I hear a muttered "Amen."

How did he do it? "With the power of the Holy Spirit," the archbishop answers. Yes, but how? "Well, I use the formula written by Pope Leo XIII," he says. But what did that Devil feel like? "You must do these things," he responds with a little laugh, "by reaching the same plain of spiritual existence as that demon or that Devil, so I really cannot tell you what he felt like physically."

In 1982, clerics were sent to investigate Milingo and he was brought before a tribunal of Propaganda Fidei, the department in charge of missionary territories. After more than a year, he was summoned by Pope John Paul himself, and told that his innovations were deemed to have threatened the dignity of the faith. But he would remain an archbishop, in Rome, under the authority of the Pope's Secretary of State, working for the Pontifical Council for Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant Peoples. The Pope told him that "we should do all we can to safeguard your charisma," and allowed him to roam with his healing ministry, on the condition that he was always to notify the local bishop.

His reputation spread. Several television documentaries were made, and Milingo appeared to become settled in Rome, learning fluent Italian and playing host to bishops from the growing Catholic congregations of Africa. But then he began to meet members of Moon's unusual sect. He had decided, he says, that "family values" and the proper education of children were the only hope of preserving civilisation as we know it, and he liked what he found in the Moon teaching. "I believe that you are never too old to learn, and I have learnt a lot from the Rev Moon. He wants to purify society and build a priestly world through marriage."

Sex, he says, was indeed the Fall of Man and, ever since Adam and Eve, there has been fornication, adultery and prostitution to rot the spirit and sow disharmony within the community. Milingo does not seem terribly keen on the practical aspects of abandoning his vow of chastity, whatever Mrs Milingo thinks.

He says that he very much likes the idea of a Moon marriage being between three people - "man, woman and God" - and recalls how he has always crusaded for the sanctity of marriage and the importance of family. But why did he have to get married himself? "I just decided," he says, with a schoolboy smile, "to practise what I preach."

To see more documents/articles regarding this group/organization/subject click here.