ROME, MAY 29, 2001 (Zenit.org).- Sun Myung Moon recruited Zambian Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo because the Korean's sect is in decline and needs a famous figure to help it break into Africa, says a specialist on new religions.
Massimo Introvigne, director of the Center of Research Studies on New Religions, in an article in the Italian newspaper Avvenire, said he believes that Moon did everything in his power to attract Milingo and make him his point man for Africa.
Milingo, 71, the former archbishop of Lusaka, on Sunday married a 43-year-old acupuncturist in a group wedding conducted by Moon in New York. The next day the Vatican said Milingo had "placed himself outside the Catholic Church" and was no longer considered a bishop.
Introvigne, one of the world's leading experts on sects and new religious movements, said the Reverend Moon's financial and media empire is doing well, but his sect is in decline in the religious sense. Hence, Milingo was a great "new catch," Introvigne contended.
"Moon was losing followers and is no longer much in the news," Introvigne noted. Given this stagnation, Moon saw in Milingo a unique media opportunity, said Introvigne.
Yet what can an ordinary African prelate and a Korean proclaiming himself the "second messiah" have in common?
"Anyone who has followed Milingo in the last few years," said Introvigne, "has noted a tendency toward positions that are typical of that current of the U.S. Protestant world called pre-millenarianism, which predicts the carrying-off of the elect to Heaven following apocalyptic events, the manifestation of the Antichrist, and the thousand-year reign on earth of the faithful with Jesus."
This theology is accompanied by the "devaluation of celibacy," and has the "evangelical" ambit as background, which is prevalent in the United States and the Moon movement, Introvigne added.
In Milingo's press statement there were "theological derivations -- such as Satan's blood, which is also poured in the Church and must be purified -- which are very, very similar to Moon's speeches in internal circles," Introvigne explained.
He added that The Unification Church founded by Moon no longer exists. Moon announced that it had a 40-year life cycle; having been born in 1954, it has been dissolved for seven years.
Introvigne said that two very diverse groups remain active: the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification, composed of all those who at any given time adhere to Moon's cultural ends, and do not leave their original religion (an intention expressed by Milingo); and the Church of Families for Unification, embracing those who really think Moon is the messiah.
Some, like former President George H. Bush, look favorably on Moon, because he is the media magnate who "plays a political role of the right, in contrast to a great part of the U.S. press, which has a different line," Introvigne said.
Now the challenge for Moon is to translate the media success attained with Milingo, Introvigne speculated.
"There are political men, for example, South Americans, who are happy to shake his hand because of the political support that Moon entails, but not much more," Introvigne said. The same thing could happen to Moon this time, he added.
Moon will try to launch his movement with Milingo in Africa, where it already exists but is small, Introvigne speculated.
In that continent, religion is "hot," Introvigne said, adding, "Milingo will certainly be used to spread the movement, but I wonder if he will have results."