Excommunicated cleric wants talks with Rome about married priests

Parsippany, USA - A Roman Catholic archbishop from Africa, excommunicated for installing four married clergy as bishops, said Tuesday he will ordain more married clerics in his crusade against celibacy despite the Vatican's opposition.

Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo of Zambia — whose 2001 marriage to a woman chosen by the Rev. Sun Myung Moon of the Unification Church scandalized the Roman Catholic Church — said he plans to install three more men Dec. 10 in West New York, New Jersey, after a two-day convention of his advocacy group Married Priests Now!

"This is a groundswell movement — a church within a church — that is forming and the Vatican is in a state of denial," Milingo said Tuesday at a news conference. "Our prelature is part of this movement. This is a new Pentecost. The Holy Spirit is creating a new church for this day."

Pope Benedict XVI convened a Vatican summit this month in response to Milingo's campaign and reaffirmed that celibacy should be mandatory for priests.

Still, Milingo, 76, said he wants a dialogue with the Vatican on allowing married clergy to return to the church.

Milingo, who was the archbishop of Zambia, had installed four married men as Roman Catholic bishops in September, including Peter Paul Brennan, of New York, and Patrick Trujillo, of Newark.

They and eight other married clergy spoke in favor of Milingo's movement on Tuesday in New Jersey. Seven of the men said they were ordained as Roman Catholic priests but left after they married.

Analysts of the Vatican's actions in the case have said church leaders fear Milingo's campaign could create a breakaway Catholic movement as renegade bishops ordain new ones. However, Milingo insists he is not promoting a schism.

Brennan said reinstated priests would help end the church's priest shortage. He estimates about 150,000 men around the world — including 30,000 Americans — have left the priesthood because of marriage.

In the United States, the number of priests has dropped from about 58,600 in 1965 to 41,790 this year, according to the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University.

"To continue to require such a condition only exacerbates an already deteriorating and hemorrhaging situation within the Roman priesthood," said Milingo, who called celibacy outdated.

However, Roman Catholic leaders have repeatedly rejected the argument that making celibacy optional would replenish their ranks.

Milingo has had a troubled relationship with the Vatican for years.

Before his marriage, Catholic officials accused him of promoting African indigenous beliefs by performing mass exorcisms and healing ceremonies. Then, in 2001, he married Maria Sung, a South Korean acupuncturist Moon chose for him, at a mass wedding in New York.

Four months later, Milingo renounced the union following a personal appeal from Pope John Paul II. But Milingo said he grew frustrated by restrictions on his ministry, so he fled Rome.

In July, he reappeared in the United States to announce his new organization. He says he now lives with his wife in the Washington, D.C., area. Aides to Milingo insist he no longer has ties to Moon's Unification Church.

But informational packets released by his movement have said that Milingo traveled to Korea earlier this year "to join the many Catholics and Catholic married priests who are in the Unification movement."