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Catholic Archbishop Meets with Estranged Wife - 2001-08-30

Zambian Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo, who scandalized the Roman Catholic Church by marrying, met with his wife Wednesday for the first time in more than three weeks. Archbishop Milingo explained his reasons for leaving her. His Korean wife said she accepted his decision.

A heart-broken Maria Sung ended her hunger strike after 16 days. She finally managed to obtain her much-requested meeting with Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo, whom she married in a ceremony organized by the Reverend Sun Myung Moon of the South Korean Unification Church in New York City last May.

The emotional meeting took place in a Rome hotel and lasted three hours.

The 71-year-old Archbishop did not ask for forgiveness, but handed his 43-year-old Korean wife a handwritten letter explaining why he chose to leave her. "My commitments in the life of the Church, including celibacy, do not allow me to be married," he explained. "The calling from my Church is my primary commitment and the right one," he wrote in the letter.

Looking drawn and pale, Maria Sung declared that she respected Archbishop Milingo's decision to leave her. She said she would do her best to support him in his mission and in his life until the end, and that she would never be with another man.

The meeting brought to an end a saga that caused much embarrassment to the Vatican. The Zambian Archbishop has been considered a troublemaker for the Catholic Church for some time. His colorful healing ceremonies and exorcisms have brought much criticism in Vatican circles.

Archbishop Milingo's decision to get married to a member of the Unification Church had led the Vatican to react harshly and threaten excommunication.

A meeting with Pope John Paul convinced Archbishop Milingo to return to the Church and to his vow of celibacy.