MILINGO, EMMANUEL Controversial Roman Catholic Archbishop (b. 1920) (Religious Movement)

Emmanuel Milingo was born in rural Zambia in 1930, and was ordained a Catholic priest in 1958. He served as the parish priest of Chipata, Zambia, from 1963 to 1966, and as secretary of the national mass media department of the Zambian Catholic Church between 1966 and 1969. In 1969, he was consecrated Archbishop of Lusaka, Zambia’s capital, serving there from 1969 to 1983, during which time he became both internationally successful and controversial as a result of his very popular healing and exorcism ministry. In fact, Zambian bishops were trying to modernize the local Catholic Church, and Milingo was so close to popular religion that there were widespread concerns that he was encouraging, rather than suppressing, superstition. In 1983, the Vatican intervened and called Milingo to Rome, asking him to serve on the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant Peoples.

To the surprise of many, Milingo restarted his successful healing and exorcism ministry in Italy, becoming a popular media figure, but generating among Italian bishops the same degree of opposition he had encountered in Zambia. Feeling persecuted, he started to work with controversial movements, including the Unification Church led by Reverend Moon (see Unification Church/ Moonies). His presence at one of Moon’s mass weddings in Seoul in 1999 was largely ignored, but the Catholic Church was shocked when Milingo himself was married by Moon to Korean acupuncturist Dr Maria Sung in New York on 27 May 2001. While Milingo initially defended his choice in theological terms, he was later persuaded by his Catholic friends to return to Italy for a personal meeting with Pope John Paul II, in a last minute attempt to avoid excommunication. After the meeting, on 7 August 2001, Milingo announced his return to the Catholic fold, while expressing his ‘brotherly’ love for Maria Sung. Catholics and Unificationists traded quite liberally accusations of brainwashing back and forth, and the melodrama turned to comedy when reporters discovered that Maria was in fact still legally married to a Naples Unificationist, and not divorced. After a year of silence and meditation in Argentina, Milingo was allowed to return to Rome in September 2002, and to resume his healing ministry under Vatican supervision.

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