Former bishop wins presidency of Paraguay

April 23, 2008

Fernando Lugo, 22 April 2008/stringerFernando 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.

Fernando Lugo celebrates his victory, 21 April 2008/Jorge AdornoThousands of Paraguayans flocked to a central square in Paraguay’s capital, Asuncion, to celebrate Lugo’s victory on Sunday night.

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?”


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Interesting, very, very fascinating. In spite of being a Catholic myself, never for once did I think this is possible. At least, from the part of the world I am coming from (Nigeria, Africa).
All said and done, it’s left for the newly elected president Lugo to turn around the fortune of the country. He may not necessarily be a politician but he nonetheless needs to reward that confidence and trust repose in him.
Though I don’t know him but the little I heard about him gives me the indication that he is humble and committed enough to carry out the task. I wish goodluck in this mammoth before him.

Posted by Adebayo Folorunsho-Francis | Report as abusive

I think it is a sad day when a bishop feels compelled to throw away his cloak and join an army that, in many regards, he chastised for so long.

Desperation is the only reason I can think of for such measures…If the intentions are pure, however, let’s not fault the means… we cannot see the hearts of men…it is only for God to judge…there is always a first, let’s see how things turn out…let’s see what kind of precedent this sets for the people of Paraguay, and elsewhere.

Posted by Ralay | Report as abusive

I think it’s wonderful that a former bishop can become president of a country like Paraguay, where smuggling has been traditionally one of its major industries. The left-leaning Lugo is bound to face an uphill struggle with right-wing religious organisations such as OPUS Dei and the Moonies. It will be interesting to watch how the challenge shapes up.

Posted by Ricardo Ritter | Report as abusive