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Vatican defrocks exorcist archbishop who married

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VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - African Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo, who practiced exorcism, faith healing and created a scandal in the Catholic Church when he married a Korean woman, has been defrocked, the Vatican said on Thursday.

A Vatican statement said Milingo, excommunicated in 2006, was no longer a priest. It referred to him as "Mister Milingo."

The unusual action was taken because Milingo, originally from Zambia, had been threatening to illegally ordain bishops as part of a breakaway church that would allow priests to marry, a spokesman said.

The Vatican excommunicated the archbishop, 79, when, in a blaze of publicity in Washington, he ordained four married men as priests as part of his group "Married Priests Now."

According to Canon (Church) law, Milingo's defrocking means he will no longer be able to carry out priestly duties and will not be allowed to dress like a priest.

The Vatican warned the faithful that any participation in events organized by Milingo, who had a strong following when he was a Vatican official and lived in Italy in the 1980s and 1990s, would be "unlawful."

It acknowledged that the defrocking of a bishop was a "most extraordinary" action in Church history.

Milingo, who became famous as an exorcist and faith healer, had in recent years made it his vocation to push for a married priesthood.

He maintained that only by allowing a married priesthood could the Church deal with a shortage of priests. According to some estimates there are at least 150,000 men who left the priesthood to marry and many want to return to the active clergy.

MASS WEDDING

In 2001, Milingo, who once served as archbishop of Lusaka, Zambia, stunned the Vatican when he disappeared and then showed up in New York, where he married Maria Sung, a 43-year-old Korean woman chosen for him by the South Korean-born evangelist Sun Myung Moon.

Milingo, wearing a tuxedo, attended a mass wedding of hundreds of couples and kissed his white-gowned wife for the cameras in a ceremony in a hotel, prompting embarrassment in the Vatican, who said he had been brain-washed.

Milingo later left Sung, rejoined the Church and went into seclusion for a year of "rehabilitation" in South America. He returned to Italy and moved into a secluded convent near Rome.

But in 2006, he went missing from the convent, turned up in Washington with Sung, and has been criticizing the Vatican over its celibacy rule ever since.

The Vatican said it took its latest action against Milingo because he had continued in his "regrettable conduct" despite many attempts to bring him back into the Church and because he was "creating serious upset and scandal among the faithful."

It said it would not recognize the validity of bishops consecrated by Milingo, who is believed to be living in Zambia.

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