Vatican Envoy Explains Milingo's Condition

THERE'S a deliberate campaign of misinformation over Archbishop Milingo's issue bent on maligning the Catholic Church, the Vatican representative to Zambia Archbishop Orlando Antonini has said.

And the chief government spokesman Newstead Zimba has called for calm among the Zambian public following the assurance from the Vatican that Archbishop Milingo is alive and well.

In an interview yesterday Apostolic Nuncio Archbishop Antonini said he regretted that there was a deliberate campaign of misinformation by certain quarters in the country bent on maligning the Catholic Church.

He said the same misinformation was now threatening the safety at the Embassy as several local groups had indicated that they would demonstrate against the alleged holding of Archbishop Milingo against his will by the Vatican. "Archbishop Milingo is on a retreat and immediately he completes this, he will continue with his public ministry ," said.

Archbishop Antonini said a line of communication between his embassy and the government had been established and all relevant information on Archbishop Milingo was being communicated.

Explaining the whole episode, Archbishop Antonini said Archbishop Milingo had gone back to the Vatican on his own and has never been held against his wishes. "In the Catholic Church it is normal for someone to take such a sabbatical leave after being in such a situation," he stated.

Explaining the events after the Moonies arranged wedding with Maria Sung, his former physician, Archbishop Antonini said even the Catholic Church experienced a lot of difficulties communicating with him because he was being kept away by the Unification Church.

"Even when this ceremony was taking place, I will not refer to it as a marriage, because the Church does not recognise it, the Vatican tried to get him but he was kept away," Archbishop Antonini said.

"The Vatican failed to communicate with him even with the help of the FBI (USA's Federal Bureau of Investigations)." He explained that the Catholic Church did not excommunicate Archbishop Milingo although by their regulations, his action would have automatically warranted this consequence.

Archbishop Antonini said a short while after the "ceremony" Archbishop Milingo voluntarily went to Italy and left Sung in Milan. He said it was at this point that he visited the Vatican and called on the Pope.

"After a meeting with the Holy Father (Pope John Paul) towards the end of August last year, Archbishop Milingo went back to Maria Sung at the hotel she was staying and told her he had returned to the Catholic Church and that from that time he would consider her as his sister," he said.

Archbishop Antonini said after the meeting he stayed in Rome for one to two months and was even visited by Archbishop James Spiede from Kasama and Bishop Mpezele from Livingstone. He said Lusaka Archbishop Merdado Mazombwe also met him in Rome.

In one of the letters sent to his family, he indicated that he was well, and was praying including composing songs in Chinyanja for the Zambian leadership. He was also preparing a book interview for an autobiography. "He indicated that after his retreat, he would return to the public healing ministry," he said.

Archbishop Antonini stated that the Vatican had already started preparing a comfortable setting where Archbishop Milingo would work from after his retreat.

He said it was also the duty of the Vatican to ensure that Archbishop Milingo's security was guaranteed which explains the non disclosure of the exact location where he is on his retreat.

And information minister Newstead Zimba yesterday confirmed that government has been in constant contact with the Holy See on the matter of Archbishop Milingo. "Furthermore, the government has consulted with the Holy See today 13th August, 2002 and has been assured that Archbishop Milingo is alive and well, and that he is not being held against his will," Zimba's statement read in part.

"Archbishop Milingo is on a one year retreat which is soon coming to an end." He stated that the Vatican has assured that Archbishop Milingo would resume his ministry at the end of the retreat and would be free to visit Zambia whenever he wished to.

Zimba stated that based on the assurances given there was no basis to doubt the information provided by the Holy See. He further explained that the Zambian High Commission to the United Kingdom which is also accredited to the Vatican had also been in constant touch with the latter.

"In both cases, no information has been found to cause government doubt the assurances of the Holy See about the safety and well being of Archbishop Milingo," the statement further read.

And reacting to an earlier statement from Bishop Dennis De Jong, Family Federation for World Peace and Unification president Reverend Lawrence Banda maintained that the Unification Church's involvement in Archbishop Milingo case was because he was human and a Zambian national entitled to enjoy all his freedoms.

"We shall not relent in the matter and shall support all efforts aimed at securing the release of Archbishop Milingo from the Vatican," Rev. Banda said.

"We believe that the issue of marriage between Milingo and Maria Sung is a private matter which should be settled by the two people involved. The Church can only help to uphold God's command that whatever he joins no man shall put asunder, not even Pope John Paul II."

But Archbishop Antonini said the Unification Church has insisted on getting Archbishop Milingo back to them based on the conditions of the Moonie church which demands that one must give his life completely to the new leader which in this case is Rev. Moon, commonly referred to as the Universal Father, including renouncing all past allegiances. Other conditions are that one gives all his savings and wealth to the new leader instead of the biblical 10 per cent.

The third condition is that the convert should give total commitment to the new found faith until death. Bishop De Jong had stated that members of the Unification Church felt trapped after the honeymoon period but feared for their lives when they wish to quit.