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Last updated: Wednesday 8 August 2001 WORLD NEWS

Vatican suspends excommunication threat against married archbishop

VATICAN CITY (AP) - With talks beginning, the Vatican said Wednesday it has suspended its threat to excommunicate an archbishop who was married in one of the Rev. Sun Myung Moon's mass weddings.

The announcement came a day after the Rev. Emmanuel Milingo had an audience with Pope John Paul II at the pontiff's summer retreat at Castel Gandolfo, in the hills outside Rome. A Vatican statement said it hoped the meeting could "lead to positive developments."

The Vatican had threatened to kick Milingo out of the church if he doesn't leave his wife by Aug. 20, sever ties with Moon's movement and remain celibate.

A Vatican official briefing reporters said no new deadline was set and that the Vatican expected it will take some time to resolve the case.

Milingo had sought the papal audience to explain his reasons for marrying and his belief that priests should be allowed to have families. He has said that celibacy has fulfilled its purpose but is now poisoning the priesthood.

The 71-year-old archbishop was married May 27 in a group ceremony at a New York hotel in one of Moon's mass weddings. His bride, 43-year-old Maria Sung, was selected by Moon, as is customary in Moon's movement.

After the wedding, Milingo asked to be released from his vow of celibacy. But the Rev. Phillip Schanker of Moon's Family Federation for World Peace and Unification - and Milingo's own official Web site - said Milingo consummated the marriage before hearing back from the Vatican.

Milingo has long been at odds with the Catholic hierarchy.

He was archbishop of Lusaka, the capital of Zambia, when he ran afoul of the Vatican over his faith healing and exorcisms. He resigned under pressure in 1983.

Milingo 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 that post.

The Canadian Press, 2001

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