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Archbishop's bride vows to fast

Rory Carroll in Rome
Monday August 13, 2001
The Guardian


In the surreal battle for the heart of the maverick Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo, his South Korean bride Maria Sung has threatened to start a hunger strike today in St Peter's Square unless the Vatican hands him back.

The archbishop disappeared last week after meeting the Pope to try to avoid being excommunicated for his Moonie wedding in May.

"I don't know where he is, and I am afraid for what is happening to him," Ms Sung said. "If the church will not let me see my husband, then I will begin to fast until they do or I will die," she said.

A Vatican spokesman said Mgr Milingo, 71, was making a spiritual retreat before his full reconciliation with the church and could not be disturbed. The Zambian faith-healer was in a monastery somewhere in Italy, he indicated.

Yesterday the Rome daily Il Messaggero claimed that Mgr Milingo was in the attic above the Pope's apartment on the third floor of the Apostolic Palace in St Peter's Square..

At a tearful press conference in Rome Ms Sung , 43, said she was afraid that her husband was not free. "Who is preventing him calling me? Help me."

The Italian press compared her to Madame Butterfly and said the saga was too bizarre even for the imagination of the late film director Federico Fellini.

After a controversial career of exorcisms and faith-healing, which led to his forced resignation as Archbishop of Lusaka in 1983, and then his retirement last year from a post in Rome with the Pontifical Council for Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant Peoples, Mgr Milingo stunned the Vatican last May by arriving at a New York hotel for a mass wedding conducted by the Rev Sun Myung Moon, the founder of the Unification church. His bride was selected by Mr Moon.

It is not clear if the marriage was registered or consummated, but the Vatican said Mgr Milingo would be excommunicated by August 20 unless he separated from his wife and severed his connection with the Unification church.

Mgr Milingo turned up in Milan last week, left his wife at an airport hotel with assurances he would return soon and headed to Rome, wearing a bishop's ring on one hand and what appeared to be a wedding ring on the other.

After explaining his motives to the Pope, Mgr Milingo, who has long campaigned against celibacy, said he was torn between wife and duty. He promised to consult his wife before deciding what to do.

He then disappeared and the Vatican suspended the threat of excommunication. A statement said: "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."

Some papal advisers oppose the detente, believing it will prolong the scandal. John Paul's soft spot for the archbishop has been likened to the parable of the prodigal son.

Moreover, it is feared that the eccentric but charismatic cleric, popular in Italy and Africa, could cause a minor schism if he set up his own church with funding from Mr Moon.




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