Paolo Gambi Notebook
please consider this a public confession requiring a private absolution. During the summer I spend every day on the beach reading and writing. On the sands of the Adriatic coast I have had surprising encounters with politicians, journalists. entrepreneurs, television personalities and even with a peer's first assistant.
On the beach the normal social hierarchies vanish. There are no formal outfits, only humble beachwear. no privileges and no social positions. Everyone is equal on the sand.
The other day I had one of the strangest encounters of my life there. I was at Papeete beach in the coastal town of Milano Marittima. This is a posh place full of rich people, reality TV celebrities and absit iniuria verhis Page Three girls.
Suffice to say it's not the kind of place one expects to meet a man who has exorcised some thousand people or governed a large African diocese. But there he was: Emmanuel Milingo, the former Archbishop of Lusaka. Zambia, with his wife, Maria Sung,
Yes, that's right: his wife. For those who are unfamiliar with the story. in 2001 Milingo married a Korean woman randomly selected for him by Sun Myung Moon, the founder of the Unification Church (better known as the Moonies).
John Paul H summoned the archbishop to the Vatican, where he promised not to see his wife any more and to retire to a Capuchin monastery. Milingo then seemed to forget his promise, because he began ordaining bishops without the Holy See's permission, earning a latae sententiae excommunication.
As the news that Milingo was on the the
began to spread, a little crowd began to gather of photographers, journalists and other curious onlookers.
When I arrived he was having lunch with his wife and his agent. Yes, Milingo has an agent. who used to work with the famous Italian talent scout Lele Mora. A popular Italian television programme had sent two rather provocative models one of whom, Marianne Puglia. was crowned Miss Earth in Venezuela in 2006 to interview Milingo. I took the opportunity to talk to a few people in the crowd. Not many of them were interested in Mffingo's theological views. Some were only there to see the models. Several people who stopped there did not even know who Milingo was. One man confused him with a former football player, another with a singer. One woman inquired why he was dressed like a priest.
I began to have some doubts about his identity. So when the television interview was over I asked if I could speak to him and his wife for a few minutes.
Ideally, I would have liked to have asked Milingo why he chose to abandon the Church for the world of showbiz. But I was not there as an inquisitor. So I softly asked him to tell his story. Then I asked his wife to tell her story. And she did.
But I couldn't resist asking Milingo another question that had inspired me to go up to him in the first place.
"If you ordained me a bishop.I asked, "would I be a real bishop?
. He insisted I would. And technically he was right: even if a bishop is excommunicated he remains a bishop.
I probed a little further. "What should I do to be ordained a bishop by you?" I asked.
He replied that I would have to undergo special training and theological studies. As he answered I pictured myself wearing a mitre and holding on to a crook inside a cathedral. But then I suddenly remembered that the price of wearing episcopal robes would be instant excommunication.
I thanked Milingo and his wife for their time:And as I left I thought how much greater the Church is than this bizarre celebrity sideshow.