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Milingo in Pope’s backyard to push for priests’ marriage rights

January 28, 2008

Good men and missions are not easily assuaged.  Milingo and Married Priests Now is a good example.  What do you think?

Milingo in Pope’s backyard to push for priests’ marriage rights

By REUTERS

Last updated: Fri, Jan 18, 2008 20:15 PM (EAT)
Excommunicated African Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo took his campaign for a married priesthood to the Pope’s backyard at a raucous book presentation where supporters cheered him and critics shouted him down.

Milingo, dressed in the same Catholic clerical robes he wore when he was a Vatican official, sat with his demure Korean wife Maria Sung as he spoke in a Rome bookstore about a new book he co-authored called Confessions of an Excommunicated Man.

“We are claiming our rights. We are priests forever and we are members of the Catholic Church,” Milingo said, raising his voice at times when he was contested.

Married Priests

The Vatican excommunicated the 77-year-old archbishop in 2006, when, in a blaze of publicity in Washington, he ordained four married men as priests as part of his group “Married Priests Now”.

Milingo, who became famous as an exorcist and faith healer when he lived in Rome and Africa in the 1980s and 1990s, has made it his new vocation to push for a married priesthood.

He says that only by allowing a married priesthood can the Church deal with the shortage of priests. According to some estimates there are at least 150,000 men who left the priesthood to marry and many want to return to the active clergy.

“The Church from the start was the Church of married apostles,” Milingo said. “Christ did not tell the apostles who were married to leave their wives,” he said to the applause of some in the bookstore in central Rome.

 

“You don’t understand anything about (Church) tradition,” one man shouted at Milingo. Priests were permitted to marry during the first millennium of the Church’s history, before the celibacy rule was adopted at the start of the second millennium.

In 2001, the former archbishop of Lusaka, Zambia, stunned the Vatican when he disappeared and showed up in New York. There, he married Sung, a 43-year-old Korean woman chosen for him by the controversial South Korean-born evangelist Sun Myung Moon.

He attended a mass wedding in a tuxedo and kissed his white-gowned wife for the cameras in a ceremony in a hotel. In his book, Milingo calls Sung a “soul mate” sent by God.

Milingo later 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.

But in 2006, he again went missing from the convent, turned up in Washington with Sung, and has been criticising the Vatican over its celibacy rule ever since. “I am sure that the Holy Father can do much more to clarify the issue of celibacy,” Milingo said.

Pope Benedict has repeatedly reaffirmed the Church’s celibacy rule, saying it is a gift because priests can dedicate themselves fully to the Church, effectively marrying it. And as Milingo spoke, his country of birth, Zambia, declared a national disaster after floods swept through the southern African nation and several neighbouring countries, killing at least 45 people and destroying roads, bridges, crops and livestock.

“This is a national disaster and it requires concerted efforts of all of us to solve,” Zambian President Levy Mwanawasa said on state television after inspecting flooded areas in southern Zambia.

Zambia, Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi have been lashed by heavy rains for several weeks, causing swollen rivers to burst their banks and forcing thousands of villagers to flee flooded homes.

Panicked residents have drowned or been killed by crocodiles as they attempted to cross rivers for higher ground.

With no sign of a let-up in the rainy weather, there are growing fears the flooding could worsen in the coming weeks and devastate the largely agricultural-based economies of the region in the middle of the critical summer growing season.

Heavy downpours are common in southern Africa in the rainy season, which runs generally from November to April, but the relentless rain is unusual and has caught officials off guard.

Zambia’s government has appealed for $13 million in emergency funds from Western donors to cope with the crisis.

Closed schools

Authorities have closed schools, converting them into shelters for those displaced. Some refugees are living in tents provided by relief agencies.

Mozambique, which has resisted asking for foreign assistance, was bracing for more heavy flooding one day after the amount of water in the Limpopo river, one of its largest, rose to alarming levels.

The government is evacuating people from areas initially deemed safe but now considered dangerous. UN agencies have warned the flooding could be worse than in 2000-2001, when 700 people died and another half a million became refugees.

Concerns also are high in Zimbabwe, which has struggled to feed itself amid a deep economic slide that has been marked by chronic shortages of food and fuel, rising poverty and inflation over 8,000 percent.

Elsewhere, angry about a European Parliament resolution on human rights in Egypt, the Egyptian government countered with an accusation that religious and ethnic minorities face increasing discrimination in Europe.

“Egypt is deeply concerned at the deteriorating state of the rights of religious and ethnic minorities.”

Milingo in Pope’s backyard to push for priests’ marriage rights

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