Everybody loves Lugo. So what will the Vatican do?
Nearly two weeks after ordained bishop Fernando Lugo was elected the next president of Paraguay, the Roman Catholic Church is still trying to figure out what do about him. The Vatican doesn’t want to have a bishop donning the presidential sash — mixing the priesthood with politics — but it also believes that once a bishop always a bishop, since ordination is a lifelong sacarament. The Vatican is dropping signals that it wants to find a non-controversial solution, and pundits doubt it will return the “bishop of the poor” to a lay state.
But there is no modern precedent to guide the Holy See. One Italian media outlet turned back to Talleyrand, the French bishop-turned foreign minister under Napoleon, even though the case bears no resemblance to modern Paraguay. The Vatican already suspended Lugo from his priestly duties after his entry into politics, and the Vatican envoy to Paraguay Orlando Antonini (pictured smiling with Lugo above) was quoted by Vatican Radio saying the next move was up to the pope.
Antonini added, perhaps tellingly, that Lugo wanted to remain within the Church, even though the Paraguayan leader has been quoted saying he was willing to be reduced to the lay state (here’s the Vatican Radio story in Italian). He abandoned his duties as a bishop three years ago, saying he felt powerless to help Paraguay’s poor.
While the Vatican is acting cautiously, other Christians have expressed their delight in Lugo’s landmark election to a country where corruption and poverty are endemic. The World Council of Churches, which groups the main non-Catholic Christian churches, praised Lugo’s committment to the poorest in line with “the rich tradition of a Latin American Christianity which has struggled to follow Jesus amidst a reality marked by inequality and lack of justice.”
The Council’s Secretary General Samuel Kobia said he was praying for Lugo’s “administration to bring more justice and reconciliation to the Paraguayan people,” as well as the possibility of “building a society that reduces the gap between the rich and the poor and addresses corruption”. Here is the full text in Spanish.