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Renegade archbishop excommunicated

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ROME, Italy (CNN) -- A Zambian archbishop who has riled the Roman Catholic Church by supporting marriage among Catholic priests has been excommunicated, the Vatican has said.

"The Holy See has patiently witnessed the evolution of the events which, unfortunately, have led Archbishop Milingo to a state of irregularity and progressive open break from communion with the Church," the Vatican said in a statement Tuesday.

The final straw for Emmanual Milingo -- the archbishop of Lusaka, Zambia -- was a service last weekend in Washington, D.C., in which he ordained four married priests as bishops without the consent of the Holy See.

The four priests were also excommunicated by the Vatican.

Five years ago, Milingo broke his own vows as a Catholic priest by marrying a woman in a mass wedding service in New York officiated by Korean evangelist Sun Myung Moon, founder of the Unification Church.

Months later, he repented and was forgiven by the Vatican.

But Milingo has not stopped pushing for the Catholic Church to change its policy of not allowing priests to marry. The 71-year-old recently formed a group called Married Priests Now and is calling for the return of approximately 150,000 former priests who are now married, according to his Web site.

The Vatican, however, has rejected Milingo's organization, saying it has created "divisions and consternations among the faithful."

The Vatican under Pope John Paul II was reluctant to excommunicate Milingo because of his popularity in his home country and across Africa, and the church did not want to create a schism within the continent.

According to the Vatican statement issued Monday, church officials have "vainly tried to contact Archbishop Milingo in order to dissuade him into committing actions that provoke scandals, especially in regards to the faithful that have followed his pastoral ministry on favor of the poor and sick."

The Vatican demoted Milingo in 1983 after the church learned he was holding faith-healing services and exorcisms in Lusaka. He was forced to leave the Zambian capital and given a minor job in Rome.

Milingo could not immediately be reached for comment and did not post any response on his Web site.

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