VATICAN CITY - The Vatican may agree to a meeting between Zambian Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo and his Korean wife within the next few days, the South Korean ambassador to the Holy See said Saturday.
The envoy, Yang Il-Bae, spoke after talking to Maria Sung, the Korean wife of the controversial Roman Catholic clergyman, apparently in a bid to help put an end to the nearly three-month real-life soap opera involving the pair.
The deputy spokesman for the Vatican press department, Ciro Benedettini, said the ambassador met with Sung "for a long talk this morning."
He would not say if the envoy had offered his services or whether he acted at the request of the Vatican.
"Obviously, there have been contacts," said Benedettini.
Sung launched a hunger strike on Tuesday to press demands to see her husband personally after the Vatican said that Milingo had decided to leave her.
She announced Friday that tests had proved she was not pregnant after earlier raising the possibility that she could be expecting a child.
Benedettini said the ambassador offered to continue mediating in the conflict pitting the Roman Catholic Church against the cult-like Unification Church of the Reverend Sun Myung Moon.
Milingo and Sung married at a mass ceremony officiated by Moon in New York in May despite a Vatican ban on marriages of Catholic clergy.
"I'm not sure what the Vatican will do but I think that it will allow Milingo to meet Maria within the next few days," said the envoy after a meeting with Sung for more than one hour at her hotel near the Vatican.
He later also discussed the case with the Vatican official in charge of issues of faith, Tarcisio Bertone.
The ambassador said that Sung appeared determined to pursue her hunger strike until she can see Milingo face to face.
She would also not accept any letters or telephone calls from her husband, he added.
Sung had reacted to the release Tuesday of a letter from her husband to John Paul II renouncing his marriage by saying she believed her husband was being "drugged" and "held prisoner" by the Vatican.
A Vatican delegation tried to hand a letter from Milingo to his wife on Monday but she refused to accept it.
The ambassador was concerned at Sung's state of health on the fourth day of her hunger strike and said she was only drinking mineral water and looking tired.
Sung prayed in the Vatican's Saint Peter's Square early Saturday to be reunited with her husband, as she has done for the past few days.
VATICAN CITY - The Vatican yesterday released what it said was the signed, handwritten letter of a married archbishop which said he was leaving his wife and returning to the Catholic church, in an attempt to refute allegations he was being held against his will.
Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo's wife, Maria Sung, said the Vatican had either fabricated the letter or pressured Archbishop Milingo to write it.
Archbishop Milingo met Pope John Paul II last Tuesday to explain his reasons for getting married. Ms Sung said she had not heard from him since last Wednesday, and said she feared the Vatican was holding him as a prisoner against his will.
She said she planned to file a complaint with Italian police, probably a missing persons' report. The single-page letter, written in Italian, was signed ``Milingo'' and corresponded to the typewritten transcript released a day earlier by the Vatican.
In it, Archbishop Milingo said he had decided to recommit his life ``in the Catholic church with all my heart, renounce my living together with Maria Sung and my relationship with the Reverend [Sun Myung] Moon and the Family Federation for World Peace''.
A spokesman for Reverend Moon's movement, the Reverend Phillip Schanker, said he was convinced Archbishop Milingo's letter had been written ``under duress''.
``We'll respect whatever he wants, but we're not convinced this is what he wants,'' Reverend Schanker said yesterday. ``Our request is one: Let him stand up in front of the world and talk to the world. All they want is to see him: That's all we'll be satisfied with.''
The handwriting appeared to be similar to a document written by Archbishop Milingo that was displayed earlier this week by a Moon spokesman.
Archbishop Milingo, 71, married Ms Sung, a 43-year-old South Korean doctor in one of Reverend Moon's mass weddings on May 27.
The Vatican has not disclosed Archbishop Milingo's whereabouts, saying only he is on a spiritual retreat and should be left alone to pray.
Ms Sung has been on hunger strike since Tuesday.
Italy is a Catholic country which reveres the Pope, but that does not stop it savouring the soap opera of a Zambian archbishop, Emmanuel Milingo, the wife he married in a Moonie ceremony, and their possible unborn child.
The Vatican today announced that Mgr Milingo had returned to the fold, renouncing his marriage and the Moonie religion. According to the Vatican, he has written to the Pope, declaring: "I am your humble and obedient servant."
However final this may sound, the news is unlikely to daunt the determination of Maria Sung, aka Lady Milingo, to get her husband back.
Yesterday Ms Sung, 43, started a hunger strike in Rome to protest against the Vatican's alleged kidnapping of her husband, who disappeared after meeting the Pope last week.
An entourage of television crews followed her visit to St Peter's Square where she prayed inside the basilica, wept beneath the Pope's balcony and wiped tears with a red hanky.
"My period is late. If I am expecting a baby, it would be in the interests of the child to know its father. He would want to know his father."
She intends to sit in St Peter's Square, with a large picture of her husband, from dawn to dusk during the hunger strike.
"If I can't meet him on Earth, I will die and with my spirit I will be close to him. Marriage is still valid even beyond death."
According to the Vatican, Mgr Milingo, 71, who married Sung in a Moonie ceremony three months ago, is in spiritual seclusion at a secret location in Italy.
He needs to reflect in peace, said a spokesman. Which means he should not set foot outside his bolthole because the country is agog at a scandal which has everything: sex, tug-of-love, secret diaries, and a scorned woman battling John Paul II.
In the summer news drought, newspapers and television have seized on the story, feeding daily revelations to a scandalised and fascinated public.
Mgr Milingo was hauled to a desk job in Rome in 1983 because the Vatican distrusted his faith healings and exorcisms in his diocese of Lusaka, Zambia.
"Too African," muttered critics, and he was retired last year, despite enduring popularity in Zambia and Italy.
He was snubbed by colleagues and had a reputation for eccentricity - but nobody expected him to arrive at a New York hotel last May for a mass wedding conducted by the Rev Sun Myung Moon, the founder of the Unification church.
Threatened with excommunication if he did not leave his wife and renounce the Moonies, the archbishop turned up in Italy unexpectedly last week. He met the Pope and told journalists he was torn by indecision. Then he disappeared, and Lady Milingo came to Rome to find him.
Have they consummated the marriage? A prurient question, but a "yes" could turn what is currently a Vatican public relations disaster into a catastrophe.
The Milan daily Corriere della Sera quoted the South Korean acupuncturist as saying that they had not had sex. But she told other journalists they had, and promised to have a pregnancy test - suggesting the Pope could be blamed for breaking up a marriage and effectively rendering a child fatherless.
Smartly dressed and chaperoned by aides from the Unification church, between bouts of weeping Ms Sung has shown a dignity and resolve which makes her a formidable operator.
She is merely a woman in love who wants her husband back, she says. "He is not the private property of the Catholic Church."
It is a battle of public relations and will. Ms Sung's credibility is strained by the fact that she met her spouse just three days before the wedding, which apparently was not registered, and had no shared language.
Her cause, several Italian journalists have privately said, would be helped if she was "bella". But she is not doing badly. She has kept the initiative through the hunger strike, press conferences and interviews. Her visit to St Peter's was orchestrated, right down to the eight-minute prayer in front of the altar and photo-ops outside. Mgr Milingo's diaries, which criticise some prelates, have been made public.
She dismissed a Vatican delegation which brought a letter in which her husband allegedly dumped her and begged forgiveness for his "mistake" in marrying her, and said that she would speak only with the archbishop.
The Vatican says it is enduring these tribulations because it is in the business of forgiving, and wants to welcome a prodigal son back into the fold.
Cynics suggest the real reason is the fear that Mgr Milingo could deploy his popularity and Moonie dollars to start a rival church in Africa.
Many cardinals are said to have been appalled that John Paul agreed to meet the Zambian, and lifted the threat of excommunication. Those blunders would have been avoided had not the Pope's formidable spin doctor, Joaquin Navarro-Valls, been on holiday.
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