The Vatican's displeasure with Milingo's action was announced in a carefully worded statement Monday from Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls: "Obviously, the Holy See has noted with deep regret the action taken by Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo. With his participation in the public rite of matrimony with the 'Moon' sect he has placed himself de facto outside the Catholic Church and has inflicted a grave wound on the communion that bishops, first of all, must manifest with the church."
Milingo, 70, and 43-year-old Maria Sung, a Korean acupuncturist, were among more than 60 Christian, Muslim, Jewish and Buddhist couples participating in the ceremony, held in a pink-paneled ballroom at the Hilton New York.
Catholic priests take a vow of celibacy before being ordained, and they are not allowed to marry unless they first receive a special dispensation to leave the clergy.
Speaking to reporters after the ceremony, Milingo said the likelihood of excommunication "doesn't affect me."
But many friends and colleagues were concerned about how excommunication would affect the archbishop.
Three members of a women's religious order he founded, the Daughters of the Redeemer, traveled to New York in an attempt to dissuade the archbishop from going through with his plans to marry.
Reached by telephone, Sister Auxilia Ponga, the congregation's superior, declined to comment.
The Vatican divested him of his post as archbishop of Lusaka, Zambia in 1983 amid allegations, which he denied, of witchcraft and theft. He was then appointed special delegate to the Pontifical Council for Migrants and Travelers, a low-key position at the Vatican.
To the consternation of many church officials, however, the archbishop continued the colorful Masses, exorcisms and healing ceremonies that had garnered him a large following in Zambia, and he grew extremely popular in Italy.
In 1996 the pope ordered him to cease his controversial activities in dioceses where he did not have the express permission of the local bishop.
The archbishop was quietly dropped from his post at the council in 1999.
"We who have been privileged to have special gifts, be it mystics, whoever they are, historically most of them have suffered because they were not understood," he said at the time.
Even as Milingo said his decision to marry Sung, whom Moon chose for him three days before the ceremony, was not meant as a statement against the Catholic Church, he criticized church officials for basing their investigations into his practices on hearsay and judging him unfairly.
"In giving orders, in using authority, love has to be the basis," he said after the wedding ceremony, his new bride taking her seat beside him with the help of an attendant to handle her wedding gown's train.
While almost 71, the archbishop did not rule out the possibility he would seek to have children. He said Old Testament patriarch Abraham became a father at age 100.
Critics of Moon have called his movement a cult, accusing him of deceptive recruitment tactics. Moon served about a year in prison in the 1980s for tax evasion. The Vatican considers the church an anti-Christian sect.
Several participants in the ceremony expressed support for Archbishop Milingo, who received a standing ovation at a post-wedding banquet featuring shrimp and filet mignon.
Archbishop George A. Stallings Jr., a former Catholic priest excommunicated in 1990 after forming the separatist African-American Catholic Congregation and who was also married by Moon on Sunday, praise Milingo for "taking such a bold stand."
Stallings, however, also faces criticism from members of his Afrocentric church over his marriage to a Japanese woman at the group wedding in New York and his implied slight of African-American women in a newspaper interview.
But he said his relationship with his new wife would "further the cause of the African-American community because it will explain its strength to other communities."
Also attending the ceremony was Minister Benjamin Muhammad, the national director of the Million Man and Million Family Marches and a representative of the Nation of Islam, led by Louis Farrakhan.
The Rev. Phillip Schanker, a spokesman for the Unification church, said, "it's not surprising that every one of the participants is a controversial figure who's not afraid of speaking out."