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News Staff

Wife says Vatican has husband

August 12, 2001


VATICAN CITY--The wife of an archbishop whose marriage scandalized the Vatican 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 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.

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 a mass wedding held by the Rev. Sun Myung Moon's church.

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.

A man who helped arrange the meeting with the pope said Milingo was in the hands of God in retreat, where he couldn't be disturbed.


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