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Married archbishop threat lifted

The pope spoke with Milingo on Tuesday  

VATICAN CITY -- The Vatican has suspended its threat to excommunicate an archbishop who defected from the Roman Catholic church to marry.

Emmanuel Milingo, 71, joined the controversial sect of the Reverend Sun Myung Moon who conducted his wedding ceremony last May in New York.

The announcement came after Pope John Paul II received Milingo at the papal summer residence at Castelgandolfo, south-east of Rome, for a meeting the Vatican hoped could "lead to positive developments."

Zambian-born Milingo had sought an audience with the pope in an attempt to explain his beliefs that priests should be allowed to marry and have families, said The Associated Press.

The meeting took place just two weeks before an August 20 deadline for Milingo to publicly return to the Catholic fold, renounce Moon's sect and leave his wife or else face excommunication -- a total severance from the church.

The Catholic Church has strict celibacy rules for its clergy, who are not allowed to marry.

Moon chose Milingo's bride for him -- 43-year old Maria Sung, an acupuncturist from south Korea. They were married on May 27 in a group ceremony at a New York hotel.

After his marriage, the archbishop asked to be released from his vow of celibacy.

But according to his official Web site and his spokesman, the Reverend Phillip Schanker, Milingo consummated the marriage before hearing from the Vatican.

Milingo has a history of controversy with the Catholic authorities.

When he was archbishop of Zambia's capital city Lusaka, the Vatican objected to his faith healing techniques and exorcisms, prompting his resignation in 1983.

Milingo was then brought to Rome as an officer in the Pontifical Council for Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant Peoples, but continued public healing and exorcism. He was released from the post last year.

• The Vatican

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