Ex-Bishop's presidential campaign divides Paraguayan Catholics

A former Catholic bishop who swapped his religious vocation for a political career has polarised the Church, with some backing him as a force for change and others saying he violated age-old doctrine.

Paraguay presidency hopeful Fernando Lugo is leading the polls ahead of an April 2008 election despite the country's constitution which bars religious leaders from running for president, Reuters reported.

Lugo, who stepped down as bishop last year, was suspended by Vatican, but under Cannon Law remains a priest as ordination is viewed as a lifelong sacrament.

Asuncion's Catholic University assistant dean Enrique Caceres said there was a "mixed reaction" to Lugo's foray into the political arena

"On the one hand, an important group of Catholics accepts him and hopes he will bring about long-awaited change, while others believe this is not a pastor's role," Mr Caceres said.

Members of the ruling Colorado Party once threatened to challenge Lugo's candidacy on the grounds that he was still a priest.

However, Lugo is especially popular with the poor in this overwhelmingly Catholic country of 5.6 million people. He defends his decision to enter politics, describing it as the only way he can help bring about real change.

President Nicanor Duarte Frutos, who has been highly critical of the former bishop, said last week that Lugo's participation in the election would give the contest more legitimacy.

But the Paraguayan president also took a jab at Lugo after meeting with Pope Benedict in Rome last Monday, saying his candidacy had upset some Vatican officials.

Ex-bishop's candidacy divides Paraguayan Catholics (Reuters, 05/11/07)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Fernando Lugo (Wikipedia)

Paraguay ex-bishop's presidential campaign hits road (CathNews, 07/08/07)
Ex-bishop barred from seeking Paraguay presidency, nation's leader claims (CathNews, 09/05/07)
"Bishop of poor" leads Paraguay presidential race (CathNews, 28/02/07)
Vatican clamps down on controversial bishops (CathNews, 07/02/07)

6 Nov 2007