AP, Nov. 21, 2002
CASAMARI, Italy (AP) – A Roman Catholic archbishop who embarrassed the Vatican by getting married last year took a major step back into the fold Thursday by celebrating his first public Mass since the scandal.
Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo conducted the service in an abbey in Casamari, about 62 miles southeast of Rome, before hundreds of people.
Milingo was married to South Korean acupuncturist Maria Sung in a group ceremony led by the Rev. Sun Myung Moon last year, but subsequently rejected the marriage after a request by Pope John Paul II. Milingo then vanished from public view, to the despair of his wife.
Sung launched a desperate campaign to learn the fate of Milingo, saying the Vatican was holding him against his will. However, the church announced in September that Milingo was on a voluntary, yearlong spiritual retreat in Argentina.
Last week, the Vatican released videotape showing Milingo arriving at a new home in Zagarolo, about 19 miles southeast of Rome.
A top Vatican official, Monsignor Tarcisio Bertone, told Vatican Radio last week that Milingo reconciled with the church and agreed to take a quiet ministry away from too much publicity.
Milingo caused controversy in the church long before his marriage by conducting religious ceremonies that troubled some Vatican officials.
He was summoned to Rome in 1983 after resigning as archbishop of Lusaka, Zambia, for performing faith healing and exorcisms. Thousands of people then flocked to Rome seeking cures for AIDS and cancer from Milingo, and the Vatican removed him from his post there.
“I’m not able to judge whether it’s true that he carried out miracles. But so many people are attracted to this and believe in him,” said Franco Mazzoli, 48, who waited outside Casamari’s 11th-century abbey before Thursday’s ceremony. “If someone can influence people so positively they have to be respected.”
However, Bertone told an Italian newspaper that Milingo’s future ceremonies only would be traditional ones.
“As everyone will see starting this afternoon, he will no longer perform faith-healing prayers during Mass and won’t perform exorcisms in front of the faithful, but only in private places,” Bertone told Corriere della Sera.
In Thursday’s interview, Bertone also said the archbishop was scheduled to visit Zambia on Dec. 4-19.
“Monsignor Milingo’s return to his homeland has specific purposes: meeting with bishops, which is a gesture of reconciliation, and meeting with his family,” Bertone said.
Milingo also will visit two charitable institutions he founded there, Bertone said.
Milingo says in the recent book “The Fish Fished from the Mud” that he “wanted to provoke shock” by marrying Sung after being removed from his Vatican post.
He said the removal left him feeling isolated and his requests to meet with the pope “were lost in the ceremonial bureaucracy” of the Vatican. Milingo said followers of the Rev. Moon approached him and he saw a “solution to my state of isolation.”
Milingo did not appear in public following the scandal, although in September he spoke via satellite linkup with a late-night Italian talk show. He indicated possibly resuming his faith healing, and insisted there was nothing untoward about his practices.
“We have some rites that seem like magic, but they are not like that,” he said.