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Archbishop Milingo excommunicated after illicit ordinations September 26, 2006

The Vatican has formally announced the excommunication of Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo, after the troubled African prelate ordained four married men as bishops.

A September 26 announcement from the Vatican press office noted that by ordaining bishops without the approval of the Holy See, Archbishop Milingo had incurred the automatic penalty of excommunication.

The four men whom he ordained in the illicit ceremony on September 24 are also excommunicated, and the Vatican announced that it would not recognize them as canonically ordained bishops.

The Vatican statement indicated that the Holy See had been following Archbishop Milingo's recent activities with "great concern," and Church leaders had made repeated effort "to dissuade him from persisting in actions that provoke scandal." The Vatican hoped that "fraternal influence" would bring the wayward archbishop back into the fold, the statement said.

However, despite the "vigilant patience" of the Vatican, the African archbishop had continued to show a pattern of "irregularity and of progressively open rupture of communion with the Church, first with his attempted marriage and then with the ordination of four bishops on Sunday, September 24," the statement continued.

The Vatican statement concluded with a call for prayers that Archbishop Milingo would "rethink and return to full communion with the Pope." However, it acknowledged, "Unfortunately, the latest developments have made these hopes more unlikely." Archbishop Milingo was pressed to resign his post as Archbishop of Lusaka, Zambia, in 1983, because of erratic behavior. He had lived for more than 20 years near Rome, without a pastoral assignment.

In 2001 the archbishop traveled to New York, where he participated in a mass wedding ceremony organized by the cult of Sun Myung Moon. Later that year he returned to Rome, met with Pope John Paul II, acknowledged that his marriage to Maria Sung was invalid, and was restored to regular status in the Catholic Church-- although he now lived under the watchful eye of Vatican officials.

In June of this year Archbishop Milingo disappeared from his residence outside Rome. He appeared in Washington in July, joining with George Stallings-- a suspended priest of the Washington archdiocese, who now leads his own sect from a church near Capitol Hill-- at a press conference calling for the Catholic Church to end priestly celibacy.

Archbishop Milingo recently disclosed that he had received an urgent communication from the Congregation for Bishops, warning that he could face severe disciplinary action if he continued to defy the Holy See. Nevertheless he proceeded with the unauthorized ordination of four men, including Stallings, at the latter's church in Washington.

The four newly ordained bishops claim affiliation with the "Synod of Old Catholic Churches," a group that has no connection with the Holy See.

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