Vatican wary of comments over married priests

/ Source: The Associated Press

The Vatican showed deep concern Thursday over a possible new scandal set off by an African archbishop after he announced he was championing the cause of married priests in the Roman Catholic Church.

The Vatican said it was still seeking precise information a day after Zambian Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo, who had previously faced a threat of excommunication, showed up at a news conference to announce his new mission.

But it also said that if the statements attributed to him about priestly celibacy were true “there would be no choice but to condemn them,” given the well-known church rules.

Milingo shocked the church five years ago when he and a South Korean acupuncturist Maria Sung were united in a mass wedding presided over by the Rev. Sun Myung Moon of the Unification Church. He later renounced his marriage and returned to the fold, with the Vatican dropping the excommunication threat.

‘Reconcile with married priests’
At the news conference in Washington, the Zambian archbishop said his new goal is to end the church’s celibacy rule.

“I feel it is time for the church to reconcile with married priests,” Milingo said.

He appealed to priests punished for marrying to “come out of their Catholic prisons and be reinstated, taking once more their pastoral responsibility among the married priests.”

The late Pope John Paul II personally intervened to persuade Milingo to step away from the marriage.

The prelate credited with bringing Milingo back to the fold, now Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, was chief assistant to Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger at the Vatican. Ratzinger now is Pope Benedict XVI, and he recently appointed Bertone as secretary of state — the Vatican’s No. 2 job.

Milingo, 76, appears now to be back with his wife, although he said, “This is irrelevant.”