ROME - The Vatican said on Saturday it hoped reports that controversial African Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo was about to get married in a ceremony presided over by the Reverend Sun Myung Moon were not true.
"So far, we have not received any direct information from Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo. However, we hope that the reports being circulated are not true," Chief Vatican Spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls said in a statement.
The Vatican was responding to media reports from New York that Milingo, a maverick faith healer who also practices exorcism, would join Moon's Unification Church and marry a Korean woman chosen by Moon according to his Church's practice.
If the marriage takes place, Milingo will almost certainly be excommunicated. Roman Catholic clergy are not allowed to marry.
Neither Milingo himself nor his spokesman could be reached. Official Vatican sources told Reuters the Holy See is not in contact with Milingo at present.
If the reports are true, the marriage would the latest in a string of embarrassments Milingo has caused the Vatican over what some Church authorities consider his unorthodox methods.
In open defiance of diocesan bishops in Italy, particularly the Rome diocese, Milingo has presided at colorful masses and meetings, at some of which he has carried out impromptu exorcisms.
In September last year Milingo, a Zambian who moved to Rome in 1983, was quietly stripped of his job in a Vatican department.
In November, the Vatican issued strict new rules aimed at curbing unauthorized exorcism and faith healing. Milingo was not mentioned by name, but many of the rules seemed to be directed at him.
Navarro-Valls said in the statement that Milingo had not held posts in dioceses or in the Roman Curia for some time.
NEW YORK - A Roman Catholic archbishop will be married in a group wedding performed by the Rev. Sun Myung Moon, who arranged the marriage for the clergyman, Moon's organization said Friday.
Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo, 70, will be married in a ceremony Sunday at the New York Hilton, according to the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification, the central group in Moon's movement.
The bride, chosen for him this week by Moon, is Sung Ryae (Anna) Soon, 43, a physician from Korea, said the Rev. Phillip Schanker, a federation spokesman. He said the newlyweds plan to move to Africa.
Milingo has long been at odds with the Catholic hierarchy, although he remains based in Rome and still carries his title.
The archbishop is in New York City but will be unavailable to speak about breaking his celibacy vows until after Sunday's group nuptials for some 60 couples, Schanker said.
Milingo will then issue a statement making clear that ``he's not leaving the church or disassociating from the Catholic tradition,'' Schanker said. Moon does not require those he marries to be followers of his religion.
However, it seems likely the Vatican would take action if the archbishop goes through with the ceremony.
``I don't think I should comment on this until we hear something directly from Milingo,'' Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls said.
Milingo was archbishop of Lusaka, the capital of Zambia, when he ran afoul of the Vatican over his ministry of faith healings and exorcisms. He resigned under pressure in 1983, a very rare occurrence with an archbishop below normal retirement age and in good health.
Milingo then was brought to Rome as a functionary in the Pontifical Council for Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant Peoples, but continued public meetings of healing and exorcism. Last year, he was quietly retired from the post.
Moon's doctrines are well beyond the bounds of Roman Catholicism and the rest of traditional Christianity. For instance, the church says Jesus was divine ``but he is not God,'' and followers regard Moon as the messiah who is completing the salvation Jesus Christ failed to accomplish.
Sunday's weddings culminate a 50-state U.S. speaking tour during which Moon has cultivated black Christian clergy. His organization cosponsored last October's Million Family March with Minister Louis Farrakhan's Nation of Islam.
Moon's organization said a flamboyant former Catholic priest also will be getting married by Moon on Sunday. The Rev. George Augustus Stallings of Washington, D.C., was excommunicated in 1990 for creating the breakaway African American Catholic Congregation, of which he is now archbishop.
Stallings will be marrying Sayomi Kamimoto, 24, a registrar at the New York City campus of Moon's theological seminary, Schanker said.
In each of the past two years, Milingo has appeared at group weddings conducted by Moon. The rituals, called ``Holy Blessing Ceremonies,'' are a central practice of Moon's religion. Moon arranges the marriages personally.
Moon teaches that Jesus' ministry as messiah failed because of Jewish rejection and because he did not marry. Thus the ``Lord of the Second Advent'' must appear at the end of time and, with his wife, become ideal ``True Parents.'' The faith teaches the second messiah was born in Korea around 1920, so the 81-year-old Moon fits the criteria.
Moon has been married twice and has 13 children. He moved from Korea to live in the United States in 1973, and controls myriad nonprofit associations and business ventures.
His faith received bad publicity over allegedly deceptive recruiting tactics and panhandling by disciples while Moon lived in luxury. Moon blamed religious persecution when he was later found guilty of tax evasion and sent to federal prison for 11 months.
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