With his unauthorized exorcisms and faith healings, Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo has long rankled the leaders of the Roman Catholic Church. But his action yesterday at a New York hotel may represent his final break with the Vatican: he was married in a group wedding presided over by the Rev. Sun Myung Moon.
In a ballroom of Hilton New York in Midtown Manhattan, the renegade archbishop stood with his new bride as Mr. Moon sprinkled holy water on them and about 60 other couples and blessed the marriages as if they were no more remarkable than a weekend wedding in the park.
But the 71-year-old archbishop from Zambia made it clear at the outset that he intended his marriage as a shot at the Catholic leadership, which he maintains has lost touch with the lay people whom it is supposed to inspire and the religious hierarchy it is supposed to command.
"The sacrifice of the celibate life has fulfilled its purpose," he said in a statement handed out at the ceremony. "The vocation of marriage and its original, holy purpose has been resurrected."
After the ceremony, Archibishop Milingo sat as a married man with his new wife, Maria Sung, 43, an acupuncturist from South Korea, who had been chosen just a few days before by Mr. Moon to be the archbishop's bride. The couple laughed and snuggled, and the septuagenarian priest said that he planned to start a family.
"If God permits," Archbishop Milingo said to the laughter of those around him, pointing out that the biblical figure Abraham fathered children when he was 100.
Archbishop Milingo said that he had no intention of leaving the Catholic Church, and that he was merely trying to set an example for others. He said that he decided to have Mr. Moon perform his wedding because he had been inspired by the teachings of Mr. Moon, whom the Vatican has denounced.
"His whole teaching is based on the Bible," Archbishop Milingo said.
For their part, representatives of Mr. Moon said that they were happy to preside over Archbishop Milingo's wedding, and that they intended no offense toward the Catholic Church.
"We did not ask for this, and we did not push this," said Rev. Phillip Schanker, a spokesman for the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification, the central organization in Mr. Moon's movement. "He was inspired and moved by Reverend Moon's vision."
Known for its mass weddings, Mr. Moon's movement teaches a unique brand of Christian theology that emphasizes the sanctity of marriage.
The movement has been beset by controversy, including accusations by critics that it is a cult, and that it has used deceptive recruiting tactics.
In 1982, Mr. Moon was convicted of tax evasion and spent about a year in prison.
Officially, the Vatican has not yet publicly said how or whether it would penalize the archbishop, who could be stripped of his position in the church. "We hope it isn't true," said Joaquín Navarro-Valls, a Vatican spokesman.
Once seen as a rising star in the Catholic Church's hierarchy, Archbishop Milingo has been a pariah for years. Born into a poor family in a small village in Zambia, he became, at age 39, one of Africa's youngest bishops.
He began falling out of favor in 1973, when he performed his first exorcism, trying to help a woman thought to be possessed. He quickly gained a reputation as a healer and exorcist, and became known among Italians as a "witch doctor bishop."
In 1982, he was summoned by Pope John Paul II to the Vatican and later forced to resign from his post as archbishop of Lusaka, in Zambia. He continued saying Masses and doing healings across Italy, and in 1996 was forbidden to celebrate Mass or perform exorcisms without approval, which Italian cardinals refused to give.
Two years ago, Archbishop Milingo retired to the small Italian village of Zagarolo, where he continued to celebrate Masses and receive believers. In 1997, he cut his own record, "Gubudu Gubudu" a Zambian term describing a drunkard's motion which sold 12,000 copies.
The ceremony yesterday was meant to cap a 52-city tour by Mr. Moon intended to emphasize the restoration of the family.
Most of the couples at the group wedding were clergy members of other faiths reaffirming their marriage vows. Only a handful of couples who married yesterday were members of the Unification Church.
Also among those married yesterday was George Augustus Stallings Jr., who left the Catholic Church in 1989. He founded the Imani Temple African-American Catholic Congregation in Washington.
Many of the couples praised Archbishop Milingo for his courage, and at a banquet that afternoon, he received a standing ovation.
While Mr. Schanker said that Mr. Moon's matchmaking was nowadays only intended as a recommendation, the archbishop said he relied entirely on Mr. Moon to choose his mate.
"The match depends on Mr. Moon," he said.
VATICAN CITY - An African archbishop who married a Korean acupuncturist in a group wedding conducted by the Reverend Sun Myung Moon can no longer be considered a bishop of the Roman Catholic Church, the Vatican said Monday.
In an unusually strong statement, Vatican chief spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls said Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo "could not be considered a bishop of the Catholic Church" and would be subject to "foreseen canonical sanctions."
Analysts said "sanctions" almost certainly meant formal excommunication.
He had "inflicted a serious wound on the communion which priests above all must show with the Church," Navarro-Valls said.
According to Canon Law, Milingo -- a Zambian -- will be excommunicated if the Vatican considers him guilty of apostasy or violating the Church's strict celibacy laws. Priests are not allowed to marry without first leaving the clergy.
Zambia's Roman Catholic bishops said they would meet in Lusaka Tuesday to discuss what they see as a crisis. "Bishops are shocked. It is stunning," a spokesman for the Episcopal Conference of Roman Catholic Bishops told Reuters.
Milingo, a controversial 71-year-old faith healer who also practices exorcism, married 43-year-old Maria Sung in a ballroom at the New York Hilton Sunday.
The service, one of 60 performed during the day, was conducted by Moon, who chose Milingo's bride for him.
"GOD IS WITH ME"
After the wedding, Milingo told reporters he was unconcerned by the threat of excommunication.
"God is still with me," he said. "I love my church."
Milingo said Saturday that as a celibate priest, matrimony had been the farthest thing from his mind.
"It is only through the command of Jesus, and the counsel and support of Reverend and Mrs. Sun Myung Moon, that I take this unexpected and bold step that I have wrestled with in my heart for some time."
But he has appeared at times to see himself as a victim of religious persecution.
"The restrictions they are putting on me have me against the wall," he told reporters after recapping his contentious history with the Vatican, where he has lived for 20 years. "They are judging me."
Milingo's marriage is the latest in a string of embarrassments he has caused the Vatican over what some Church authorities consider his unorthodox methods.
In defiance of diocesan bishops in Italy, he has presided at colorful masses and meetings at which he has carried out impromptu exorcisms.
Last September, Milingo, who moved to Rome in 1983, was quietly stripped of his job in a Vatican department.
In November, the Vatican issued strict new rules on exorcism and faith healing. Milingo was not mentioned by name, but many of the rules seemed to be drafted with him in mind.
Milingo's decision to marry is viewed as a slap in the face for Pope John Paul, who had shown him leniency despite pressure from leading Vatican officials.
Senior Roman Catholic church sources said the Zambian bishops would ask the Vatican to expedite the excommunication of Milingo from the Church for what they saw as a betrayal.
"Milingo has betrayed the Zambian people and the Catholic Church. If it is in the name of Jesus and the glory of God he acted, then it is incomprehensible that he was married by a man whose followers consider (him) the messiah," one source said.
Reverend Moon, leader of the controversial Unification Church, is hailed as the messiah by his followers.
The Unification Church has been linked to devil worship in Zambia and has been forced to clear its name in the courts.
Archbishop Milingo's bride was selected by the Rev Moon
The Vatican has excommunicated Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo, the former head of the Roman Catholic Church in Zambia. Monsignor Milingo married a South Korean acupuncturist - whom he had never met before - during a collective wedding ceremony organised by the Moonies in New York.
He (Milingo) has placed himself outside the Catholic Church and seriously damaged the link between bishops and the Church
Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro Valls
The Vatican said Monsignor Milingo had committed a grave error and could no longer be considered a bishop of the Church.
Monsignor Milingo defended himself by pointing out that exorcism and healing was carried out by Jesus Christ himself.
The 71-year-old former archbishop of Lusaka married 43-year-old doctor, Maria Sung on Sunday in a Unification Church (commonly known as the Moonies) ceremony, attended by 60 couples.
'Lifetime of devotion'
Roman Catholic Church spokesman Joaquin Navarro Valls, said: "By joining a public wedding ceremony celebrated by the 'Moon' sect he has placed himself outside the Catholic Church and seriously damaged the link between bishops and the Church."
The Lord has called me to take a step that will change my life forever
Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo Earlier Monsignor Milingo said God was the inspiration for his decision to marry, in defiance of Church doctrine which requires priests to be celibate.
"After a lifetime of devotion to the Church and to my priestly vows, the Lord has called me to take a step that will change my life forever," he said in a statement before the ceremony.
The maverick Catholic was archbishop of Lusaka, Zambia, until 1983, when he resigned under pressure from Rome - an almost unprecedented event.
The Vatican objected to allegations that he carried out faith healings and exorcisms and moved him to Rome to make it easier to keep an eye on him.
The Rev Moon chose the bride for the archbishop days before the ceremony
But he continued to perform healings at well-attended public ceremonies that brought him a following in Europe.
Last year, the Vatican issued new guidelines on exorcism that were widely understood to be aimed at Monsignor Milingo.
He was quietly retired from his position at the Pontifical Council for Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People last year.
He has appeared at group weddings conducted by the Rev Moon in the past two years.
Monsignor Milingo said he and his wife would move to Africa.
The Rev Moon personally arranges many of the pairings at the mass weddings that are a central part of the church he leads.
The 81-year-old founded the Unification Church in 1954 as a movement dedicated to building world peace through loving families.
His philosophy is based on the original sin - the temptation of Eve by Satan and the ensuing downfall of mankind.
Followers believe that the Messiah was sent by God to rid the human race of this sin and start anew. But the objective was never fulfilled because Christ was crucified before he could marry.
The Reverend Moon sees his mission as continuing the work of Jesus Christ in creating a new "family of man" and in 1992 he declared that he and his wife were the true parents of all humanity.
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