Parsippany, New Jersey -- A renegade Roman Catholic archbishop who was excommunicated by the Vatican after he installed married priests as bishops acknowledged Saturday that South Korean evangelist Rev. Sun Myung Moon is supporting his crusade against mandatory celibacy.
At a weekend conference of married priests, Zambian Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo distributed a statement to participants headlined "Thanks," crediting Moon for his backing for the meeting and for Milingo's Married Priests Now! advocacy group.
"Today we are present as beneficiaries of Rev. Moon," Milingo wrote.
"In order to ensure the success of our convocation, he dedicated his key organizations to give their utmost support in every way needed to the Married Priests Now!"
Milingo was married to a South Korean acupuncturist chosen for him by Moon in a mass Unification church wedding in 2001. The archbishop appeared to drop those ties when he heeded pleas from Vatican officials and the late pope John Paul II to renounce the marriage and return to Rome.
When Milingo disappeared from Italy this year, resurfacing in the United States in July, he and his aides denied any link with Moon. They said they were fighting on their own to save the church from its clergy shortage and sex abuse crises that they blamed on celibacy.
"He got his wife and now it's over," a Milingo aide, Rev. Dairo Ferrabolli, said in September.
However, at this weekend's meeting, Milingo overflowed with praise for Moon.
"I have witnessed the zeal of Rev. Sun Myung Moon for the realization of the Kingdom for God," Milingo wrote.
"His concern for the welfare of the whole world makes him not only a world benefactor but more importantly a person whose vision, humility and saintly life has awakened our own courage and determination to organize and do what we ourselves know is right from God."
Vatican officials have been scandalized by Milingo, trying to privately persuade him to drop his campaign, then openly censuring him when that effort failed.
After the church excommunicated Milingo, Pope Benedict convened a summit last month that the Vatican said examined "the situation created by the disobedience of Msgr. Emmanuel Milingo."
The gathering ended with a reaffirmation of mandatory celibacy for clergy.
Archbishop Peter Paul Brennan, a married priest who was made a bishop by Milingo, acknowledged the tie to Moon would provide more fodder for discrediting Married Priests Now!
Moon's doctrines are considered well beyond the bounds of traditional Christianity.
His followers regard him as "Lord of the Second Advent" who is providing the "physical salvation" Jesus was unable to accomplish because he was executed and didn't marry. Jesus gave only "spiritual salvation," Moon says.
Brennan and others insisted Moon is not directing their movement, which they said remains wholly Catholic.
"He's not involved," Brennan said.
"He shows an interest because of the family aspect."
Asked why Milingo is acknowledging the link now, Brennan said it doesn't harm the movement to work with people "who may be controversial in their faith."
Moon's American Clergy Leadership Conference paid for much of the weekend assembly with about 150 priests and their wives, along with leaders of other denominations who were invited as observers. Events included a renewal of vows by married priests and their spouses, who donned veils for the procession alongside their husbands, who were wearing clerical vestments.
The morning session Saturday included a lecture by Margaret Starbird, an author who says Jesus was married to Mary Magdelene and the two had a child. Author Dan Brown cited Starbird's writing as a source for "The Da Vinci Code."