Bishop Milingo back to Catholic church fold

BBC/November 16, 2002

The former head of the Roman Catholic Church in Zambia, Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo, who shocked Catholics by briefly marrying last year, has been given approval by the Vatican to return to his duties.

The 72-year-old cleric will celebrate Mass at his new headquarters near Rome next week, the Vatican said in a statement.

Archbishop Milingo married a South Korean woman in May 2001, in a multiple wedding ceremony held by the Reverend Moon's Unification Church , a sect also known as the Moonies.

At the time, he said celibacy was poisoning the Catholic priesthood - but he later renounced the union and left his wife.

The archbishop's sensational marriage began with a group ceremony in New York led by Reverend Moon at which he became the husband of Maria Sung, a 43-year-old acupuncturist.

The marriage provoked fury at the Vatican, which threatened to excommunicate the bridegroom.

Archbishop Milingo had a personal meeting with Pope John Paul II in August 2001, after which he renounced his wife and spent a year in spiritual retreat in Argentina.

Maria Sung later went on hunger strike outside the Vatican claiming the Church had brainwashed her husband into ending their three-month marriage and returning to religious life.

Vatican officials denied Ms Sung's claims that they were holding the archbishop against his will, and accused the Unification Church of using her to embarrass the Church.

The official sign that the prelate had been forgiven was a Vatican statement notifying "any faithful who may be interested" that Archbishop Milingo would celebrate mass next week at L'Abbazia di Casamar, his new base south of Rome.

"Everyone is asking me when they can come (to participate in my mass) and I can now say that I have returned to my apostolate," he told supporters as he arrived at his new headquarters on Friday.

He will conduct rites of exorcism and healing. Exorcism is a Catholic Church ritual to drive out demons supposedly taking possession of people.

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