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Tuesday August 14 8:52 AM ET

Archbishop's Wife Says It's Either Love or Death

Reuters Photo
Reuters Photo

Married Archbishop to Reconcile With Church

AP Photo
Married Archbishop to Reconcile With Church

By Jane Barrett

ROME (Reuters) - The wife of Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo, who says she may be pregnant by the prelate, began a hunger strike Tuesday and said she was ready to die if he renounced their marriage and returned to the Catholic Church.

``If I can't meet him on earth, I will die and with my spirit I will be close to him,'' Maria Sung told a news conference. ``Marriage is still valid even beyond death.''

Milingo, a controversial Zambian born faith healer and exorcist, scandalized the Catholic world in May when he married Sung at a mass wedding organized by Rev Sun Myung Moon.

Last month the Vatican (news - web sites) threatened to excommunicate Milingo unless he left his wife, severed all his links with Moon's sect, publicly declared his fidelity to the doctrine of celibacy and clearly demonstrated his obedience to Pope John Paul (news - web sites).

He has not been seen in public since last week when he told reporters he was torn between his wife, Pope John Paul and his respect for Moon, who is hailed as the Messiah by his followers but is decried as dangerous by others.

Sung said she believed her husband was being kept from her by force and that she would pray at the Vatican every day starting just after dawn for him to be given back.

``I love Emmanuel Milingo with all my heart and am ready to give my life to protect him, just as he would do for me. I want to meet my husband face to face, without anyone's control,'' Sung said, reading from a statement in broken Italian.

A spokesman for Moon's Unification Church said Sung wanted to sit in St. Peter's Square with a large picture of her husband from dawn to dusk during her hunger strike.

Sung, a Korean acupuncturist, stopped eating at midnight and will only drink water from now on, the spokesman said.


Asked if she was concerned about the effect not eating would have on any child she might be carrying, Sung said Milingo was her priority at the moment.

Reuters Photo
Reuters Photo

``The most important person right now is the one who is already alive but who isn't free -- Monsignor Milingo. My health and any other situation is secondary to that,'' she said calmly.

Sung, 43, told reporters Monday she suspected she may be pregnant. But she said she would not take a pregnancy test until her husband was by her side.

``If it comes out positive, people will say I am using it to get him back and if it is negative, there is a risk they will just let me go,'' she told a throng of reporters tracking her story assiduously in an otherwise quiet August.

As the strange story of a Catholic archbishop marrying and possibly expecting a child took its latest bizarre twist, Italian and Vatican police stepped up their guard in St. Peter's Square and stopped reporters following Sung in to the basilica.

Milingo shot back into the public eye last week when he turned up unexpectedly at the Pope's summer residence southeast of Rome in an apparent attempt to make amends following the sensational group wedding in New York where he married Sung.

The Vatican said the 71-year-old archbishop ``had decided to pass a period of reflection and prayer ahead of his full reconciliation'' with the Catholic Church.

Sung said she was convinced that Milingo would return to her side and that she saw no reason for him to renounce his position as a Catholic archbishop or as her husband.

``We married before God and if he decides it is no longer true, I am ready to die. But I don't believe my husband will go back on his decision,'' she said.

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