ASUNCION, Paraguay, APRIL 23, 2008 (Zenit.org).- The president-elect of Paraguay, a suspended Catholic bishop, asked forgiveness from the Church for the sorrow his disobedience of canon law has caused.
Fernando Lugo asked forgiveness particularly to Benedict XVI on Monday after having been elected Sunday as Paraguay’s next president. “If my attitude and my disobedience of canon law caused sorrow, I sincerely ask forgiveness to the people of the Church. In particular, I ask pardon to Pope Benedict XVI,” Lugo said on the radio channel Fe y Alegria (Faith and Joy).
According to canon law, clerics cannot run for political offices.
Lugo told the radio station that he is ready to dialogue to find a “satisfactory solution” for himself and the Church. Sources in the Holy See confirmed that the unique situation is being studied, though time is needed.
For his part, the president of the Paraguayan episcopal conference, Bishop Ignacio Gogorza, said that the Pope will be the one to make a decision, though he understands it will take time. He said the Church in Paraguay awaits the word of the Holy See.
He confirmed, however, that the Permanent Council of the episcopal conference will consider the issue in their next meeting, because “it is an unavoidable event in the life of the country.”
With a decree signed Jan. 20, 2007, by the prefect of the Vatican Congregation for Bishops, Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, Lugo was suspended “a divinis” for having presented himself as a candidate to the presidency.
Under this decision, Lugo maintains his clerical state but cannot exercise his ministry.
Lugo was named a bishop in 1994. He had since asked Benedict XVI to be able to “renounce his ecclesial ministry […] to take up again the condition of a layperson in the Church.”
The petition was not accepted because, as Cardinal Re noted, “the episcopacy is a service accepted freely forever.”
“With sincere sorrow,” Cardinal Re announced his duty of placing on the bishop “the penalty of suspension ‘a divinis,’ according to Canon 1333 §1” of the Code of Canon Law.