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August 26, 2001

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    Archbishop's wife: It's not over
    Woman rejects TV statement on split

       
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    Tribune news services
    Published August 26, 2001

    ROME -- The wife of a Roman Catholic archbishop who angered the Vatican with his marriage, then announced on television that he would return to the church, said she will not believe he is leaving her unless he tells her face to face.

    "I recall he used to call me `my little one, my little one,'" Maria Sung said at a news conference Saturday at a Rome hotel.

    A day earlier, Zambian Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo said on Italian state television that Pope John Paul II had persuaded him to return to the church and that she must accept his decision to be celibate.

    Sung, 43, said she will continue a water-only fast, which was in its 12th day Saturday, until she meets with Milingo. Supporters said a dozen women from around the world will join her in the hunger strike Monday.

    Milingo, 71, who had been assigned to the Vatican, stunned Rome in May when he and Sung were married in a group ceremony in New York by Rev. Sun Myung Moon, leader of the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification movement.

    The archbishop dropped out of sight Aug. 8 after meeting with the pope, reappearing in public Friday night to read a letter to Sung over state television.

    "If it's true what they say, you have to come and tell it to me. I have absolute faith in you," his wife said, speaking softly and sometimes pausing to cry.

    Milingo said he agreed with Vatican officials that any meeting he has with Sung must be supervised. Sung, a South Korean acupuncturist, has insisted she wants to meet alone with her husband.

    On Friday the archbishop, wearing clerical garb, said he was looking forward to a meeting so he could explain his decision to Sung.

    "She'll understand," he said. "She's not a girl. She's an adult."

    According to the Vatican, Milingo has been on spiritual retreat at an undisclosed place since the pope received him privately.

    Three days after the papal audience, Milingo said he wrote letters to the pope and to his wife saying his marriage had been a mistake. On television, he charged that officials of Moon's church had withheld the letter from Sung.

    Sung started her fast after reading a copy of the letter to the pope. The Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera published photographs of her ripping it up, saying her husband must have been coerced. On Friday evening, she told reporters she was offered the letter addressed to her but decided not to read it.

    Fellow Catholic clergymen, who describe Milingo as a "loose cannon," have been trying to figure him out for more than two decades.

    A rising clerical star in his native Zambia, he became at 39 one of the youngest Catholic archbishops. He later performed scandalous faith healing and exorcisms before large crowds.

    In 1983 he was transferred from Zambia to a Vatican desk job, but he continued his unorthodox practices in Italy against his superiors' wishes, performing in hotels and factories until he was removed again and stripped of his ultimate perk: a Vatican apartment.

    The archbishop's lawyer, Emanuela Comiero, told the Italian newspaper La Stampa that his eviction last year pushed Milingo over the edge. He embraced Moon's church because it "showed him the respect and consideration that were denied him at the Vatican," the lawyer said.

    Copyright 2001, Chicago Tribune


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