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Tuesday August 7 8:40 AM ET

Disgraced Married Archbishop Knocks on Pope's Door

By Philip Pullella

ROME (Reuters) - Emmanuel Milingo, the archbishop who scandalized the Catholic world by defecting to the sect of the Reverend Sun Myung Moon and marrying a Korean woman, met Pope John Paul (news - web sites) on Tuesday in an apparent attempt to make amends.

In a brief statement that capped a morning of suspense, the Vatican (news - web sites) said the Pope received Milingo at the papal summer residence at Castelgandolfo, southeast of Rome.

``The meeting was the start of dialogue that one hopes can lead to positive developments,'' the Vatican said.

Milingo, who was born in Zambia, unexpectedly showed up at Castelgandolfo late on Monday but was not received by the Pope.

He returned on Tuesday morning but it was not clear until the last minute if the Pontiff would receive the 71-year-old charismatic faith healer and exorcist.

Milingo, wearing a dark suit and open-necked shirt, made no comment when he left the papal villa but tapped his fingers on his lips in silence.

The meeting with the Pope took place just two weeks before an August 20 deadline for Milingo to publicly return to the Catholic fold, renounce Moon's sect and leave his wife or else face excommunication.

Despite the papal meeting, most church observers believe Milingo's career in the Roman Catholic Church is essentially over following the spectacular way in which he joined the Moon sect in New York last May.

Vatican sources said at the time the Pope felt hurt by Milingo's action because the Pontiff had often been lenient with him when others in the Church felt he had to be disciplined for unauthorized faith healing and exorcism.

Last month, the Vatican read the religious riot act to Milingo, ordering him to comply with conditions set by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

The conditions were:

``(a) Leave (wife) Maria Sung; (b) Sever all links with the sect Family Federation for World Peace and Unification; (c) Declare publicly his fidelity to the doctrine and ecclesiastical discipline of celibacy and manifest his obedience to the Supreme Pontiff by a clear and unequivocal act.''

The order continued:

``Should Archbishop Milingo not formally act by August 20, 2001 to fulfil what is hereby required of him, excommunication reserved to the Holy See will be imposed.''


Excommunication is a total severance from the Church. In modern times it has been rare, particularly for high-ranking prelates.

The Roman Catholic Church has strict celibacy rules for its clergy, who are not allowed to marry.

Last May's wedding service in New York, one of 60 performed during the day, was conducted by Moon, who chose Milingo's bride for him. Sung is an acupuncturist from Korea.

Moon, leader of the controversial Unification Church, is hailed as the messiah by his followers but has been strongly criticized in several countries.

After the wedding, Milingo told reporters he was unconcerned by the threat of excommunication.

``God is still with me,'' he said. ``I love my church.''

But he also said the Vatican was judging him and trying to put him up against a wall.

Milingo's marriage was the latest in a string of embarrassments he has caused the Vatican by his unorthodox methods.

In defiance of diocesan bishops in Italy, he has presided at colorful masses and meetings at which he has carried out impromptu exorcisms.

Last September Milingo, who moved to Rome in 1983, was quietly stripped of his job in a Vatican department.

In November, the Vatican issued strict new rules on exorcism and faith healing. Milingo was not mentioned by name, but many of the rules seemed to have been drafted with him in mind.

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