ASUNCION, Paraguay - Paraguay's president-elect has received unprecedented permission from the pope to resign as bishop, the papal nuncio said Wednesday, ending a dispute over Fernando Lugo's priestly status. Church officials earlier insisted that Lugo, 57, would always be a bishop under church law.
"This is the first case within the church in which a bishop receives a dispensation," Nuncio Orlando Antonini said at a news conference. "Yes, there have been many other priests the pope has left in the status of layman, but never a member of the hierarchy until today."
Lugo also made history with April's presidential election victory, which ended the 61-year rule of the Colorado Party in Paraguay. The former "bishop of the poor" takes office on Aug. 15.
"It's a great pain for the church to lose a bishop, a priest whom we tried to dissuade from the political option up to the last day of his election campaign," Antonini said. "But the Holy Father recognized that he was elected by the majority of the people to lead Paraguay for the next five years."
This is a very interesting case in which a bishop and pastor apparently finds the political arena and the presidential office a better alternative to the pulpit in the task of improving the life of the poor in his flock. Wether he can render to God and to Ceasar as well as strike a balance between God and "mammon", remains to be seen. May God bless Fr. Lugo as he follows his call and takes on the task of governing Paraguay. This will surely merit watching!