Excommunicated archbishop celebrates marriage of former priest in Brazil

Brasilia, Brazil - A former Roman Catholic archbishop from Africa, excommunicated for installing married clergy as bishops, celebrated the wedding ceremony of a former priest and a catechist in Brazil, part of his campaign against the Vatican's celibacy policy.

Emmanuel Milingo — whose 2001 marriage to a woman chosen by the Rev. Sun Myung Moon scandalized the Roman Catholic Church — celebrated the Brazilian couple's wedding ceremony Saturday night in a small chapel in Brasilia.

"Your marriage is valid and is licit because it is before God," Milingo told the couple, in Italian. The ceremony was translated to Portuguese by another former priest.

"The priesthood needs to live matrimonial life in order to renovate the church," the 76-year-old Milingo said.

Milingo, who was the archbishop of Zambia, defied the Vatican last September by installing four married men as Catholic bishops, a move that drew his automatic excommunication.

He had already angered the Vatican by taking a South Korean woman as his wife in a group wedding ceremony of Moon's Unification Church.

Saturday's marriage was between former priest Jose Moura, 37, and Sebastiana Moura, 32, who as a catechist taught the Catholic faith and is now four-months pregnant.

"I know this matrimony is not licit according to the Vatican," Jose Moura said. "To live together in this manner is a sin to the eyes of the Church. But for me this (ceremony) is enough because I'm part of a multitude that asks the Vatican to make celibacy optional, not necessarily end it."

Jose Moura, who met Sebastiana Moura at her church in Brasilia, abandoned the priesthood in 2003 to begin the relationship. Their civil marriage took place in October.

The couple now belong to Milingo's advocacy group Married Priests Now!, which has 18,600 married priests in Brazil, according to Jose Moura.

The Catholic Church in Brazil, the world's largest Roman Catholic nation, has stood by the celibacy requirement.

Last December, Cardinal Claudio Hummes, the head of the Vatican's office in charge of priests around the world, was quoted as saying that "celibacy is a discipline, not a dogma of the church."

But he later said the discussion about celibacy was not on the Church's agenda and contended that allowing them to marry would not solve the clergy shortage.

Pope Benedict XVI, who will visit Brazil May 9-14, has reinforced his endorsement of celibacy. Last month, he reiterated the Church's ban on Communion for divorced Catholics who remarry.

Milingo said, however, that "the Vatican is not the church."

"I was baptized ... nobody can expel me from the church," he said.

Milingo and his wife are expected to stay in Brazil until late April on invitation by a group linked to Moon's church and Married Priests Now!