The Words of the Schanker Family

When in Rome

Phillip Schanker
August 25, 2001

Dear Brothers and Sisters (especially sisters),

There is too much at stake, and far too much intrigue and intensity to say much of all that is happening now in Rome. I imagine that through the filter of the international press it may be difficult to understand all that is going on. Last night (Friday), a broadcast of an interview with Archbishop Milingo on the pro-Vatican channel did very little to change the growing sentiment of support for Maria Sung. His disheveled, unshaven appearance, his stressed, or even fuzzy demeanor (in the eyes of some), and the things he said could be read a thousand ways. At least one thing is undeniable: in his first sentence, he said that he would soon meet his wife, and his comments were filled with love & respect for her.

Followers of Milingo were especially concerned, finding it difficult to see the warm and bright spirit of God that normally surrounds this saint. One group came to the Vatican today with a doctor, demanding to see the Archbishop. Others in countryside towns called their newspapers. Several called us, giving their numbers at last for interviews with the media. One of the top three national papers will publish a scholarly piece by a top Italian Catholic scholar, calling Maria's position closer to the true Catholic tradition than the apparent position of Archbishop Milingo, because the church is based upon the family. He notes that celibacy did not come from Jesus, that Peter was married, and that the discipline was introduced more than 1000 years after Christ. I also pointed the reporter on the story to the CITI web site [], for more research & information.

On Friday, Aug. 18, the Holy See contacted the Embassy of South Korea to the Vatican, asking them to convince Maria to stop fasting and let go. The ambassador's visit to her the following morning lasted 2 hours, and he came to understand the depth of the relationship and her determination. The following week of diplomatic efforts to set up a meeting was filled with disappointments, broken promises and misinformation. So many times we were on the verge of a breakthrough; three times a meeting has been promised... then delayed. The real story can only be told after this is over.

Every time we create public awareness and support by speaking out, trumpeting Maria's cause, we are bitterly accused by the Vatican (a few days ago, spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls said in an interview that the biggest problem in the negotiations is Rev. Phillip Schanker!). This is not the position we wish to be in, and in fact we are winning public opinion and media support (from the unbiased media) because of the righteousness of Maria's cause and the appropriate tone of our support).

But whenever we have acquiesced to their loud complaints, and keep silent due to negotiation efforts, we get delays, stonewalling, maneuvering and worse. It is mounting public criticism that is pushing this forward, we believe. Sadly, whatever is causing the delays is turning public opinion against Milingo, since they are being portrayed as his doing.

So much more to say, but it is inappropriate here and now. Diplomatic efforts were compromised yesterday, when a deal was struck, then we & the negotiator were left waiting all day for a time & place for a meeting, while in fact the interview was broadcast instead. International efforts from government, religious leaders and women's & other rights groups are expected, and there are stirrings from Milingo's people as well. The Christian-based community (former Catholics) in Italy is responding, and victims of corruption within the priesthood (forced abortions, abandoned children, special brothels, and worse) are lining up, looking for support and courage to speak after years of fear and harassment. Whatever happens, Maria has become a symbol of courage and determination for people such as these.

With all this said, I believe God has a plan to resolve these situations, and still trust that a meeting will be accomplished very soon. Please pray...

Love & prayer, Rev. Phillip Schanker

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