Ex-Archbishop Milingo Meets with Pope

Facing an Aug. 20 Date of Excommunication

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CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, AUG. 7, 2001 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II received a surprise visit today from Emmanuel Milingo, a former archbishop who is facing an Aug. 20 excommunication after his marriage last May in the Reverend Sun Myung Moon´s sect.

Father Ciro Benedettini, assistant director of the Vatican Press Office, confirmed the news and said that «the meeting is the beginning of a dialogue that, it is hoped, might lead to positive results.»

The meeting took place in the papal summer residence of Castel Gandolfo, southeast of Rome, where the Pope has been staying. Ecclesiastical sources said that Milingo, 71, spent a half-hour with the Holy Father.

Last month the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith set an Aug. 20 deadline for the former archbishop of Lusaka, Zambia, to publicly make amends or face excommunication.

The note, signed by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, prefect of the congregation, listed the conditions that Milingo must comply with in order to avoid excommunication. Among them: he had to leave Maria Sung, 43, the woman he married in the Moon ceremony, and he had «to declare publicly his fidelity to the doctrine and ecclesiastical discipline of celibacy, and to manifest his obedience to the Supreme Pontiff by a clear and unequivocal gesture.»

At a July 25 press conference in Washington, D.C., Milingo said: «I want to remain in the Catholic Church and be accepted as a married archbishop.»

His wedding, which took place in New York along with that of 59 other couples, was presided over by Moon, who personally chose a wife for Milingo.

Milingo´s wedding was one of a series of acts of disobedience carried out over the years.

In 1983 he was removed from his ministry in Lusaka and given a functionary post with a pontifical council. Over those years, Milingo organized public healing and exorcism ceremonies in various countries, particularly Italy, without the permission of the local bishops.

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