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Married archbishop asks Pope to allow priests to tie the knot


The Associated Press

VATICAN CITY (August 7, 9:15 a.m. PDT) - An archbishop threatened with excommunication after he got married in New York in one of the Rev. Sun Myung Moon's mass weddings met with Pope John Paul II Tuesday to plead his case for allowing priests to wed.

The Vatican called the pontiff's meeting with Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo the start of a dialogue "that is hoped can lead to positive developments," a Vatican statement said.

Milingo had sought the papal audience to explain his belief that priests should be allowed to marry and have families, a spokesman for the archbishop, the Rev. Phillip Schanker, said Tuesday.

Schanker said Milingo had consummated his marriage and that he hoped to have a family. "He has begun conjugal life," Schanker said in a telephone interview from Washington.

"He has come to understand that all the blessings of God were meant to be given through the family," Schanker said.

The Vatican has given the 71-year-old Milingo, once the archbishop of Lusaka, Zambia, until Aug. 20 to leave his new wife, sever his ties with Moon's movement, publicly promise to remain celibate and "manifest his obedience to the Supreme Pontiff." Otherwise, it says, he will be excommunicated.

Milingo has said he doesn't want to leave the church, although he has said it needs to be reformed.

Milingo married his 43-year-old bride, selected by Moon, at a mass wedding held by Moon's Family Federation for World Peace and Unification at a New York hotel on May 27.

After the wedding, Milingo had asked to be released from his vow of celibacy, but Schanker said Milingo consummated the marriage before hearing back from the Vatican.

Milingo's wife traveled with him to Rome, but was not present in his meeting with the pope, Schanker said.

Schanker said the meeting was arranged through private channels because Milingo's official requests for an audience had been met with silence from the Vatican.

Milingo went to the pontiff's summer residence outside Rome Monday evening and met with Vatican officials. It was not clear whether the pope received him then.

Milingo has long been at odds with the Catholic hierarchy.

As archbishop of Lusaka, he ran afoul of the Vatican over his faith healing and exorcisms. He resigned under pressure in 1983, a very rare occurrence.

He 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 the post.