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Saturday August 11 2:19 PM ET

Archbishop Who Wed Plans Return

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Married Archbishop to Reconcile With Church
 

By NICOLE WINFIELD, Associated Press Writer

VATICAN CITY (AP) - The wife of an archbishop whose marriage scandalized the Vatican (news - web sites) pleaded tearfully Saturday to be allowed to see her husband and threatened to go on a hunger strike if church officials denied her request.

Maria Sung suggested that the church was holding her husband, Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo, against his will after he met with the pope and Vatican officials in an effort to open a dialogue and avert his excommunication.

``I am afraid that my husband is not free to speak with me,'' Sung told a press conference at a Rome hotel. ``I am asking the church that my husband loves to tell me where he is.''

She read from a prepared statement in Italian, pausing frequently and at one point leaving the hotel after breaking down in tears. She returned to take questions, sitting before a pink-framed photograph of the smiling couple surrounded by pink flowers.

Milingo, a Zambian, and his wife traveled to Italy last week, and Milingo met Tuesday with the pope to discuss his reasons for getting married in one of a mass wedding held by the Rev. Sun Myung Moon's church. Milingo has said priests need not be celibate and that God's blessings were meant to be given through the family.

The Vatican had threatened to excommunicate Milingo if he didn't leave his wife by Aug. 20, sever his ties with Moon's movement, publicly promise to remain celibate and ``manifest his obedience to the Supreme Pontiff.''

After the papal meeting, the Vatican suspended that threat while talks continued.

In a statement Saturday, the watchdogs of Catholic orthodoxy, the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith said Milingo had decided to reconcile after meeting with the pope and being reminded ``of his responsibilities to God and the church.''

``After the lamentable events to which he was a protagonist, he has decided to take a period of reflection and prayer in view of his total reconciliation,'' the statement said.

The statement did not say whether Milingo had agreed to end the marriage.

Milingo has said he doesn't want to leave the church, and after his meeting Tuesday with the pope said he was going to take time to reflect and pray. But he said he would have to consult his wife before deciding what to do next.

Sung said she hadn't seen her husband since Monday and hadn't heard from him since Wednesday. ``He told me (Wednesday) he was facing a difficult fight, and that he was not free to talk, but would call back soon,'' she said.

Efforts to reach Milingo through his Italian handlers had failed, she told reporters, accusing them of lying to the media, abandoning her and refusing to take her calls.

One of Milingo's Italian handlers, Alba Vitali, who helped arranged the meeting with the pope, has said Milingo was in the hands of God in retreat, where he couldn't be disturbed.

Sung said she would begin fasting in three days or less if she wasn't allowed to see her husband, whom she described as being ``a wise, loving man with a joyful and giving spirit.''

``My husband told me he would give his life to protect me,'' her statement read. ``But I don't know where he is, and I am afraid for what is happening to him. So now, I am willing to give my life to find him.''

She refused to answer reporters' repeated questions about the legal status of their marriage, amid suggestions that it may not be registered. She said the two were married ``in front of God.''

A spokesman for Moon's Family Federation for World Peace and Unification Movement, the Rev. Philip Schanker, acknowledged the legal status of the marriage was ``a sensitive issue.''

``They are right now in the midst of very delicate, very sensitive discussions about his standing and the role of marriage and canonical issues - and for whatever reason both the archbishop and Mrs. Milingo have not been deeply forthcoming about the intimate details about their marriage, I think because it's a sensitive issue,'' Schanker said.

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.

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Earlier Stories
Archbishop to Reconcile With Church (August 11)
Married Archbishop in Seclusion (August 10)

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