The most famous stray of the Catholic Church, African archbishop Emmanuel Milingo, who rocked the Vatican by eloping then repenting, has returned to the fold again after reportedly fleeing to his native Zambia in late 2003.
Milingo, crucifix slightly askew over his ample belly and hands together in his lap, appeared seated in row of bishops behind Pope John Paul II during an audience for the Focolare Movement. The movement is credited with negotiating his return after the 2001 elopement.
Milingo’s recent disappearance and reappearance are still shrouded in mystery. After Vatican officials stopped him from appearing at a press conference in November, he left unexpectedly for Northern Italy to undergo medical exams sparking rumors that he was contemplating moving from where Church officials have him under ‘house arrest’ in a Rome-area monastery.
He then left for Africa and, according to news reports Vatican officials knew, but did not authorize, Milingo’s trip home. Church officials also did not know when he planned to return.
Milingo fell from grace in 2001 when he married Maria Sung in a group ceremony of the Rev. Sun Myung Moon’s Unification church. Pope John Paul II managed to bring this embarrassing stray back into the fold a few months later, but Milingo has been kept out of the public eye ever since.I talian papers reported that Maria Sung has not given up on her short-lived marriage: she reportedly came to Italy and tried to visit Milingo during his recent hospitalization but police guarding the archbishop refused to let her in.
The Zambia native, known for his exorcisms and faith healing, was called to Rome in 1983 so that the Vatican could keep a closer eye on him. Milingo refused to be confined to the desk job they gave him and soon gained a large following in Italy, where he became a popular figure on television and also cut a CD.
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Feb. 18, 2004