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Breakaway Zambia Catholic group against compulsory celibacy


A breakaway Catholic church has been formed in Zambia and is supporting a campaign by the excommunicated former archbishop of Lusaka, Emmanuel Milingo, against compulsory celibacy for priests.

"The profound pain and suffering caused to the Roman Catholic priests as a result of celibacy is uncalled for," said the Rev. Luciano Mbewe, who said he was the archbishop-elect of the breakaway group that calls itself the Catholic Apostolic National Church in Zambia.

The launch was announced in Lusaka on 25 December by Mbewe, who was expelled from the Catholic Church in Zambia in 2002 for sexual misconduct.

Archbishop Milingo was excommunicated in 2006 for ordaining four married men as bishops.  At the time, he was also reported to be living with Maria Sung, a South Korean woman he married in 2001 at a Unification Church ceremony, but from whom he separated after three months following pressure from the Vatican.

"The problem of mandatory celibacy practised by the Roman Catholic Church is one of the reasons behind the formation of the breakaway church inspired by ex-communicated prelate Emmanuel Milingo," said Mbewe, who was a priest in his old church, but is an archbishop in the new one.

The Zambia Episcopal Conference, which represents the country’s Roman Catholic bishops, has threatened to take legal action to stop the breakaway group from using the name "Catholic".

"The use of the name ‘Catholic’ is meant to mislead the members of the public," ZEC communications director, the Rev. Paul Samasumo was reported as saying in the Zambian media on 26 December.

"We are consulting our lawyers to file a court injunction to restrain the group from the use of the name Catholic," said Samasumo.  " Everyone has the right to form a church but they have no right to use the name Catholic."

Samasumo was reported to have acknowledged there had been "defections" from the Catholic Church, but said that priests who had left were not using the name "Catholic".  Mbewe stated, however, "The word Catholic means ‘universal’ and no organization can monopolise it as there are several Catholic churches the world over."

Ecumenical News International