‘I’m not a god or an angel … It has happened and I’ve to accept it’ – Archbishop Milingo
The Post (Zambia), Dec. 22, 2002
INTERVIEW, By Larry Moonze
ON Wednesday December 13, Post news editor Joe Kaunda took a long drive to the Catholic Church’s retreat centre, the quiet and secluded Mount Zion, Daughters of the Redeemer to interview Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo.
In this interview, Archbishop Milingo talks about his life and explains his controversial marriage to Korean acupuncturist Maria Sung. But who is Archbishop Milingo?
“I know there are many descriptions that have been given on me, but I would describe myself as a simple Zambian born on 13th June 1930 at Mnukwa in chief Mpezeni’s village,” Archbishop Milingo says. Born as the third child in a Catholic family of seven, Milingo led a life of herding cattle from a tender age of eight until 12, when he was enrolled into school. He described his childhood as having been hard and lonely.
He later doubled his permanent chore of cattle herding with working on tobacco farms when he was 10 years old after getting attracted to the farms where his father Yakobe Magani Milingo Chilumbi had been working for sometime. He says his father, born in 1912, was a devout Catholic who helped build the Milingo family to follow his religious background. His mother, Tomaide Lumbiwe Miti, spent most of the time with the children as her husband went off working on the tobacco plantations. While growing up, the young Milingo underwent all phases of Catholic initiation starting from the first communion, the sacrament of confirmation and adult catechism which was, however, disrupted briefly because he had to start school. His first school was a Presbytery school at St. Mary’s in Chipata then known as Fort Jameson. The school was opened in 1942.
“It was there that I started my preparation to become a priest which I chose as my profession or status,” Archbishop Milingo proudly recalls and adds that he has never looked back. He said from St. Mary’s he went to continue his education in Casina Dedsa in Malawi, later went Kanchebere where for the first time he proudly states he slept in a bed. He was finally ordained as a priest in 1958 with his first posting having been Minga in Eastern Province. “I stayed there up to 1960 and was later posted to Chipata at St. Mary’s where I stayed for one year and in 1961 I was sent overseas to study in Rome and later to the University of Dublin from 1962-63,” he recalls. Archbishop Milingo feels he has made some significant contributions to priesthood and generally his Church since being ordained. He said he was zealous after becoming a priest.
While in Chipata as an African priest he worked with 10 other African priests from the earlier crop – Father Severiano Kamunga, Fr. Gabriel Musanivute, Asberito Sibweta and Fr. Felisiano Miti. “These were priests before us and were edifying. As I became a young priest among them I led a life that added continuously that zeal for souls. To have before you some people who become models of your life.
“I heard a voice very clearly telling me, go and preach the Gospel”.
“They helped put me back in line when they noticed any bit of deviation in some of my thoughts. I had what one would call a lot of discernment and lived a life accompanied by men who wanted me to achieve the best as a priest. I did indeed live up to my expectations and I say so because when I left Chipata then I came here (Lusaka) as Secretary of Communication on the Episcopal Conference level from 1965 until I rose to the position of Archbishop of Lusaka in 1969,” Archbishop Milingo says. Gifts of healing The Zambian prelate says something spectacular occurred in 1973 that changed his life.
“I heard a voice very clearly telling me, go and preach the Gospel. Not just because you want to be taken for a goody, goody, but this was a real voice which I heard when I was reading late in the night before I was about to go to bed in 1973. What surprised me was that I was a priest already and Archbishop already but why did the Lord speak to me now and not then? And just like the Bible says, that the rains when they come onto the Earth do not return without leaving sprout, I got the same words from God saying you will not return to heaven without producing fruits.”
Archbishop Milingo says as he began to pray for the sick, he realised that what he was simply doing was living within the command from God. He explains that the healing sessions occurred during the celebration of mass. Archbishop Milingo said when prayer got intense, the healing phenomena did take place while many other people felt liberated from their inner oppressions. Catholics’ response towards faith healing “But everything new causes a lot of commotion.
And it was not easy for the Church for anyone who comes up and says that he has a gift, the Church is not obliged to say yes this is true because in history the Church has been duped in many ways by people who stood as something they were not,” he says. The Church had to make a final judgement on whatever charism before it could accept whatever gift one claimed to have possessed.
“It is this process I have had to pass through which has caused so much suffering on my own part as I had to be treated like others in the past,” Archbishop Milingo says after a short but deep emotional pause. But getting back to his earlier experiences as Lusaka Archbishop, he says besides faith healing and exorcism sessions he admits having stubbornly formed a habit of including elements more connected to the local (Zambian traditional) culture in the liturgical celebrations, a development that the Catholic Church was not too pleased with. He says it was, however, priests within his diocese that continued writing protest letters to Rome about his controversial ways of celebrating mass. Being a composer, he had even translated most of the parts of mass, including the music, into local languages. Slowly, Archbishop Milingo started to introduce drumming and dancing during mass for the offertory procession. He recalls that while he felt that his innovations brought mass closer to the local people, there were strong reactions from Rome on this development which was fast becoming popular throughout Zambia. Archbishop Milingo also recalls his strong commitment and effort towards localising the ways of worship which were earlier totally unaccepted by the Catholic Church.
“But after Vatican Council there were changes made finally to ensure that the people could be able to worship according to their culture, including their values which they had taken from their traditional backgrounds,” Archbishop Milingo says. “But even that was not easy to introduce. You can imagine drums could not be used but we continued pushing that we needed to get the participation of the people. The people should feel what we are preaching is part of them and they should also get satisfaction out of it but that took a long time. “I was then convinced in my Archdiocese, and generally in Zambia, the most popular instrument is the drum and slowly they came to accept it.” After a fair share of what the Catholic Church perceived as controversy in Zambia, Archbishop Milingo was called to Rome where he has been since April 17, 1982. “I was sent there because the Church wasn’t sure, I wasn’t understood. They were particularly scared that I would cause the separation of the Church,” Archbishop Milingo says.
“They felt I would continue to do what I believed was correct when others thought it wasn’t.” Archbishop Milingo said he was taken away first for observation and also for the Church to study what he was doing. It is this observatory stage that impacted very negatively on Archbishop Milingo but he got a firm assurance from the Pope. “The Holy Father told me that I must not be surprised with what had happened to me,” Archbishop recalls. Pope John Paul II explained to him that the same thing had happened to Fr. Pio as the Church had to carry out its own investigations. But it is the same lengthy investigations that led to Archbishop Milingo to start losing patience as over the years he felt left out and was barred from doing what he had always wanted, the preaching and evangelising. Decision to join the moonies He says since for 30 years todate (including the 10 years in Zambia), he has been practising the faith healing, the Church had never come to accept this and only likened his practise to “African Animism”. “They (Church) were saying that my type of worship was merely ancestral worship and that I came from a family of shin’gangas, a family of witchdoctors, when I knew that what I was doing came from God and this continued on for 30 years,” Archbishop Milingo says.
He explains that when he came across the Moonies they offered him a place and stated that if the Catholic Church did not understand him they were ready to accept and also help him.
“I was then convinced in my Archdiocese, and generally in Zambia, the most popular instrument is the drum and slowly they came to accept it”
“But the only thing that they did was to force me to marry and I had a lot of discussions with them and told them I cannot do that, especially that I have a congregation,” Archbishop Milingo states. “They tried to convince me, this way and that way, and finally I told them I would do that if they let me remain a Catholic but they should provide a place where I would conduct mass and preach.” Recalling how he met Reverend Moon, Archbishop Milingo says he was led by apostolic instinct which he says was the sole reason he agreed to their proposals. He said for 30 years he had been practically forbidden to celebrate mass of healing all over Italy. Archbishop Milingo says the situation instead of improving was getting worse as years went by.
“I was progressively isolated, ridiculed by many, especially within the Church I so loved and still love,” he says. Archbishop Milingo said it was this same situation that got very desperate to the point that he started to contemplate finding an escape from what he terms “an insufferable situation” that was making him ‘mad’ and even started affecting his health. “I could no longer preach in the Church, I had to find a way to continue with my calling and mission elsewhere,” he explains. Some relief came when he was offered a proposal by the Moonies. He says the Moonies came into his life when this feeling and exasperation was at its lowest ebb. Initially Archbishop Milingo’s contact with the Moonies in 1990 allowed him access to an offer from the organisation to speak for two to three hours at their meetings in Rome where he even conducted the faith healing sessions which drew huge crowds of Moonies.
And it was at this stage that Rev. Moon assured him that if the Catholic Church didn’t accept him, they would accommodate him and through them continue his mission to preach the word of God.<.b>
However, Archbishop Milingo says this was nothing new, as over the years he had participated in many interdenominational prayer meetings and he felt this was a mere continuation of what he already had been involved in. But as time went on and for the Moonies to guarantee Archbishop Milingo his place to carryout his mission, there was a condition that he marries, a decision he has later come to state as foolish. Marriage to Maria Sung Archbishop Milingo’s controversy was not to end with faith healing and ignoring mass procedure, this time he attracted the world spot light on the Catholic Church after he announced that he would break his vows of celibacy and marry at the Moonies mass wedding in New York on May 27, 2001. Archbishop Milingo’s bride, Maria Sung, a Korean acupuncturist who was previously married but divorced, was personally picked for him by moonies leader, Rev. Moon. But when asked whether he had any feelings for Maria Sung, Archbishop Milingo says he married not out of emotion and maintains this answer when asked to state whether he loved Sung as his wife. “When marrying I didn’t do it out of affection or emotions, it was because I was to be given a place to preach and teach the word of God after I got married,” Archbishop Milingo said.
“My reasoning was that if I couldn’t find a place to preach the Gospel, and the Moonies offered this with a condition that I get married, I compromised.”
He likened his situation to Jesus, the son of God born in a manger, who didn’t even have a church to preach from. Archbishop Milingo said in the message from God he had been ordered to go out there and preach, and he had to ensure that he found a way to get the word to the people.
“My own reasoning was that if this was the only way through which I had to preach, I had to take it. I was looking for a place where I could be accepted,” Archbishop Milingo explains. So, how then did they live together? Archbishop Milingo says like the Moonies ritual where for 40 days the couple has to live a chaste life in marriage, the couple had to abide. But he refuses to be drawn to discuss the issue further. However, Archbishop Milingo in his recently released book entitled Emmanuel Milingo, the fish drawn from the mud states: “We left for a honeymoon (and there was not much sweetness about it) in Korea, afterwards we lived together in New York,” the book reads in part.
In the interview he further refused to be drawn to comment on Maria Sung’s announced fears that she was pregnant. “What happened will remain shut in my memory and I do not wish to go through the same anguish in recalling it,” he said. But does Archbishop Milingo regret the marriage? “My experience is this, it has happened and I have to accept it,” he said. Archbishop Milingo adds: “The Lord has shown me how far I can go if left alone but he brought me back.”
However, Archbishop Milingo cautions the Catholic folk and the general public about their reaction to his marriage because he had begged for forgiveness from both God and the Church and expected everyone to treat him as such. He said his situation was no different from the Biblical parable of the prodigal son. “When he (prodigal son) returned the father never said you wasted your money, you went out with prostitutes but he was happy and had a feast for him,”
Archbishop Milingo said, adding that it was never his intention to offend anyone by marrying. “But who told you that Milingo, myself, was a god or an angel that made you develop a kind of spiritual elitism of Milingo?” Archbishop Milingo asks. “It’s not my fault its you, yourself, but if you really love God and claim to be Christian then you should forgive and forget.” The episode following his marriage In an earlier article published by The Post entitled Untravelled Path, Archbishop Milingo in his response to the Vatican ultimatum that he leaves Maria Sung and returns to the Church or face severe consequences, including excommunication, he instead justified his marriage.
In a strongly worded statement against the Catholic Church, the prelate maintained he would remain with his spouse. In the article he stated in part: “The Catholic Church has become scandalised by immorality. Celibacy once a vital part of the Church’s spiritual purity and power, has become a facade. Secret affairs and marriages, illegitimate children, rampant homosexuality, pedophilia and illicit sex have riddled the priesthood to the extent that UN Commission on Human Rights has investigated the Church for sexual abuse, and the western media is filled with stories of lawsuits and scandals surrounding the church. From such hypocrisy, how can priests be the sanctifier of the community? Christ is mocked, the devil laughs, and the Church is powerless to overcome the onslaught of divorce, adultery, and sexually transmitted diseases that plague society. “In my own native Zambia, the death is more than 4 times the birth rate due to AIDS. “From where shall healing come? The Church’s charade must end; immorality must be purified; we must be honest. “And so I married not for mere personal satisfaction, not out of weakness or temptations, not secretly or shamefully, but in front of God and the world. The Lord has shown me a true purpose of marriage, as the very reason He created man and woman [Matthew 19:4]. “Sanctified, faithful, monogamous marriage is not a step down from the vow of celibacy! It has raised it to a new level of fidelity. It is now time for the Church to take the same step.
“Men and women who are committed and faithful, parents who nurture and provide a moral example. loving homes where God is present and children are valued: these are the answers to the problems of the church and the problems of society.” But when asked, ‘How then do you reconcile your latest position from your earlier article in which you justified your marriage to Maria Sung? You stated that the Lord had shown you that the basis of marriage was the reason he created a man and a woman?’ Archbishop Milingo initially reacts seemingly annoyed, “You are just the same. You are persecuting me, you just want to ask the same question over and over and in whose interest?” But after assuring him that the people wanted to get his explanation he calms downs and starts to explain that, “God sometimes leaves a person and later he gets to start showing you things slowly. “I received a light that is so strong and I am not guilty about this thing with Maria Sung even when people like you want to persecute me.
“But some people are coming to me and saying we trusted you and you did this and that but from the day the Pope said, ‘In the name of Jesus come back to the Catholic Church’, I knew that God himself had forgiven me regardless of all this nonsense that has been said. But people like you keep dwelling on that and keep insisting, why do you do that? Why did you do that? But the Bible says that Lord, if you couldn’t forgive us, where would you go?” Archbishop Milingo said that after the Pope’s audience with him with the simple words, the issue about his marriage had been put to rest by the Vatican.
He said it was also very clear that the Pope knew that when Milingo made all those statements against the Church, there was something that had gone wrong with him. “The Catholic Church having heard that the Holy Father only said ‘in the name of Jesus come back to the Catholic Church’, they did not give any other argument against me or follow me on this issue in order that I should pay for my sins as you are doing,” Archbishop Milingo said. “The Pope said the case of Milingo was over.
He never at any time came back to start asking ‘why did you do it or why did you say that’. But am surprised that it is the Christians that are dwelling on this when I never offended you or intended to offend you. But why are they now deciding to get back to the rubbish?” On celibacy, Archbishop Milingo says that contrary to his earlier statement, celibacy remains valid in the Catholic Church. But what then made you make those adverse remarks about celibacy in the Catholic Church? “What I said was merely my own defence, but as a matter of fact I have seen that God did not agree with me because he said to me through Psalms 56 – the last verse – that where I am bound by the vows that I had taken, I must fulfil the vows I made you, God; I shall pay you my thanks-offerings, for you have rescued me from death to walk in the presence of God in the light of the living.”
Archbishop Milingo says after 20 years of being observed in Rome, finally the Church itself has even formulated a method of how healing sessions would be conducted. He says there is now a rule to separate mass from the healing and exorcism sessions. “Finally after the 20 years, I have been accepted because they have even prepared a place for me at a place called Zagarolo where I now operate and we are a team of 10 doing all we can to preach the word of God,” he says happily.
Archbishop Milingo said his role at Zagarolo would be to continue giving solace to the needy and preaching the word. And commenting on his coming to terms with his return to the Catholic fold considering the scandal – the breaking of the vows of celibacy and marriage – that he was involved in, Archbishop Milingo says he has come back with renewed vigour as a priest. “I have no inferiority complex even when I pray for the people. I have started all over again and this has let me forget about the past,” he says. Archbishop Milingo refused to be brought to comment on the morality controversy that had plagued the Catholic Church.