VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – Emmanuel Milingo, the African Catholic archbishop and faith healer who married in the Reverend Sun Myung Moon’s Unification Church in 2001 but later returned to the fold, has scandalised the Vatican yet again.
Milingo went missing last month from a convent south of Rome where he had been living in near-seclusion for the past four years. He resurfaced in Washington on Wednesday.
Effectively making himself a renegade yet again from the Roman Catholic Church, he held a surprise news conference announcing that his new mission was to persuade the Vatican to allow priests to marry.
The Roman Catholic Church insists that its priests remain celibate and has ruled out letting them marry as a solution to the shortage of priests in many parts of the world.
A Vatican source said Church officials were “shocked” by Milingo’s new outburst and said disciplinary measures could be announced soon.
Sanctions could be as severe as excommunication, the most serious penalty, which inflicts a total cut-off from the Church.
In 2001, the former archbishop of Lusaka, Zambia, stunned the Vatican when he disappeared and showed up in New York, where he married Maria Sung, a 43-year-old Korean woman chosen for him by the controversial South Korean-born evangelist Moon.
He attended a mass wedding in a tuxedo and kissing his white-gowned wife for the cameras in a ceremony in a New York hotel.
Milingo and Sung later came back to Italy separately. He said he wanted to return to the Church. She went on a hunger strike, gave bedside interviews in her hotel room and claimed the Vatican had kidnapped her husband.
The Vatican, which never recognised the marriage, threatened Milingo with excommunication.
The late Pope John Paul showed leniency and ordered his aides to try to bring him back into the fold.
Milingo left Sung, rejoined the Church and went into seclusion for a year of rehabilitation in South America before he returned to Italy and moved into a convent near Rome.
A Vatican source he did not expect Pope Benedict to be as kind now that Milingo had scandalised the Church for a second time.
In a book called “Fished out of the Mud,” published four years ago, Milingo said the Moon Church may have brainwashed him. He refused to reveal if he consummated the marriage.
It was not clear if Milingo was now planning to reunite with Sung in the United States.