ROME, May 28 - The Monsignor Emmanuel Milingo, formally a Roman Catholic archbishop in Zambia, had in effect begun his own excommunication process by participating in a ceremony in which he was married to a Korean woman over the weekend.
Milingo, 71, who was retired from his post in a Vatican department last year, married Maria Ryae Sung, 43, a South Korean doctor of acupuncture. They were among some 60 couples married Sunday in New York by the Rev. Sun Myung Moon, founder of the Unification Church in a ceremony called a Holy Blessing.
In an announcement Monday, the Vatican said Milingo had instigated the process of excommunication not because he married -- Milingo, like all Catholic priests when they are ordained, took a vow of celibacy in 1958 -- but because he participated in a public ritual of schism sect. The Vatican recognizes such as act as apostasy, which since 1364 has called for excommunication, although the church did not expressly say that Milingo had been exiled from the church. It also did not say what further steps the church would take.
In a statement released Saturday, Milingo said, Now at 71 years of age 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, which will enable me to be a vehicle of His grace and blessing to Africa and the world, but one which I expect will alter my relationship with the Roman Catholic Church as well.
As a celibate priest, matrimony was the furthest thing from my mind. It is only through the command of Jesus, and the counsel and support of Rev. and Mrs. Moon, that I take this unexpected and bold step, one that I have wrestled with in my heart for some time, he said.
The Rev. Phillip Schanker, spokesman for the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification, which Moon formed in 1997, said Milingo planned to remain within the Catholic Church.
The blessing ceremony is of no way to remove beliefs, the Rev. Moon has no desire to alienate anyone`s faith, the archbishop is not leaving his faith, but he did seek Rev. Moon`s guidance in seeking a wife, Schanker told United Press International on Sunday. The focus of the ceremony was to marry some people for the first time and renew the vows of others.
Milingo, a native of Zambia, has been at odds with the Roman Catholic church for a couple of decades. The former head of the archdiocese of Lusaka, the capital of Zambia, was recalled to Rome in 1982 after endorsing faith-healing and exorcism. He met twice with Pope John Paul II, who in 1983 accepted Milingo`s resignation as archbishop to Lusaka and appointed him as special delegate to the Pontifical Commission for Pastoral Care for Migration and Tourism, a position from which Milingo has also been removed.
The 81-year-old Moon on his church Web site, unification.org, describes the Holy Blessing as a ceremony that includes: the sprinkling of holy water representing the rebirth or renewal of the husband and wife together as a blessed couple, a recitation of vows to consummate the ideal of the creation of God as an eternal husband and wife to rear their children to live up to the will of God, and to love the people of the world as God does.
UPI is owned by News World Communications, a media company established by Moon.