Vatican calls married priest summit over Milingo

Pope Benedict will meet top Vatican curia officials tomorrow to consider how to respond to the creation of a "personal prelature" for married priests by Zambian rebel Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo.

The International Herald Tribune reports that Pope Benedict will hold the meeting tomorrow to discuss the implications of the "disobedience" of the Zambian prelate, who was excommunicated in September for installing four married men as bishops.

Milingo had previously angered the Holy See in 2001, when he was married to a South Korean acupuncturist chosen for him by the Reverend Sun Myung Moon of the Unification Church, in a group wedding ceremony in New York. Upon appeal from John Paul II a few months later, he renounced that union.

Archbishop Milingo disappeared from his residence outside Rome in June, resurfacing a month later in Washington DC, to announce he was back with his wife.

The Zambian Archbishop is also now championing the cause of married priests through what he describes as the "Married Priests Now" personal prelature.

The Vatican said in September that Archbishop Milingo and the four men he ordained as bishops were "automatically excommunicated" under church law. The Vatican added that it did not recognise the ordination of the four and would not recognise any ordinations done by those men in the future.

Archbishop Milingo said the Church should embrace more than 150,000 married priests worldwide in part to ease the ongoing clergy shortage and to elevate the sanctity of marriage.

The Synod of Bishops in October 2005 rejected suggestions that the mandatory celibacy requirement for priests be dropped. But Archbishop Milingo's excommunication has brought the issue back into the spotlight.

The Vatican stressed that tomorrow's meeting would not open a general discussion of the celibacy requirement but would only examine the requests for dispensation made by priests wishing to marry and the requests for readmission made by clergy who had married in recent years.

However, the spokesperson for the US Catholic lobby group FutureChurch, Sr Christine Schenk said: "We are delighted that the Vatican is considering permitting married priests to return to active ministry. Our Catholic people will welcome them with open arms."

"I can't imagine who would be more fit to serve the people of God than men who have already served them faithfully for many years and then were called to marriage. For these men, marriage will only enhance their priestly ministry. We must also work to enfranchise the tens of thousands of women ministering in the Church," Schenk said in a statement.

Meanwhile, the World Peace Herald reports that Zambia's Catholic Episcopal Conference has issued a stern warning reminding Catholics of Archbishop Milingo's excommunication ahead of a planned visit by the rebel churchman.

The Zambian bishops reminds Zambians "to be aware that if he holds religious functions, then those ceremonies will be done outside the Catholic Church. Therefore they are not Catholic services".

Archbishop Milingo responded in a 12 November statement saying: "The Episcopal Conference of the Married Priests Now! Prelature wishes to thank the Zambian Episcopal Conference for alerting the people of Zambia to expect the arrival of the Emeritus Metropolitan Archbishop of Lusaka. It is so wonderful that you have advertised his missionary activities and his healing ministry."

Pope Benedict XVI to hold Vatican summit on married priests (International Herald Tribune, 14/11/06)
Zambian Archbishop takes married priests crusade to Africa (World Peace Herald, 14/11/06)
FutureChurch Applauds Possible Return of Married Priests (FutureChurch, Media Release, 13/11/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Archbishop Milingo Official Website
Emmanuel Milingo (Wikipedia)
Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo (Catholic-Hierarchy)
Holy See Congregation for the Bishops
Future Church

Married Archbishop excommunicated over illicit ordinations (CathNews, 27/9/06)
Controversial Zambian archbishop a married priest - again (CathNews 19/9/06)
Archbishop Milingo returns to ministry (CathNews, 20/11/02)
Archbishop Milingo expected to return to full ministry (CathNews, 4/6/02)
Vatican regrets marriage of Archbishop Milingo (CathNews, 30/5/01)
Korean ambassador mediates in Archbishop Milingo affair (CathNews, 21/1/01)

15 Nov 2006