Former bishop wins presidency of Paraguay
Fernando Lugo shed his cassock to win Paraguay’s presidential election on Sunday, ending 61 years of one-party rule in the South American country. Lugo stepped down as bishop of one of Paraguay’s neediest areas three years ago, saying he felt powerless to help the poor. A year later, he left the priesthood to launch his political career.
The Vatican responded by suspending him, but he remains a bishop under canon law because the Catholic Church views ordination as a lifelong sacrament.
Paraguay’s bishops said they recognise the mild-mannered, sandal-wearing Lugo as the new president, adding this may be the first country where a Catholic bishop has been elected leader.
It’s unclear how this might affect diplomatic relations between Paraguay and the Vatican.
“I understand this is the first time this happens and so the Pope will have to analyse this. I don’t know what measure he’ll take,” Monsignor Ignacio Gogorza, the head of Paraguay’s bishops’ conference, told local radio.
Local media reported that Lugo, 56, had expressed an interest in serving as bishop again, once his presidential term ends in 2013.
“For that to happen, he’d have to pass through a period of penitence and reflection, if the Church were to accept that. If not, he’d be a suspended bishop for life,” Gogorza said.
Bishop Adalberto Martinez, secretary-general of the bishops’ conference, said Paraguay’s bishops will continue to consider Lugo a friend after collaborating with him for 12 years.
“This is such a special and historic situation, that I think it deserves special attention from the Holy See,” Martinez was quoted as saying in Paraguayan daily La Nacion.
The Paraguayan people welcomed Lugo’s entry in politics since the Catholic Church is one of the most respected institutions in a country where corruption and nepotism abounds.
Among them was Delfina Ramirez, a Catholic nun.
“This triumph is incredible, we had been waiting for it for a long time,” Ramirez said. When asked what she thought of the Vatican’s opinion, she forcefully gestured with her hands as if to say: “Who cares?”