Paraguay: Special Dispensation for President-Elect

ASUNCION, Paraguay -- The Vatican has laicized a bishop elected Paraguayan president, allowing him to take office in August without violating church law, said the papal nuncio to Paraguay. "The pope has granted him the loss of his clerical status ... he's a layman now," said Archbishop Orlando Antonini, the papal nuncio, at a press conference July 30. Fernando Lugo, who became known as "the bishop of the poor," was elected president of Paraguay April 20 after campaigning against corruption and for greater equality for the country's indigenous people and poor peasant farmers. When Lugo takes office Aug. 15, he will end the more than 60-year rule of the Colorado Party. "This is the first case within the church in which a bishop receives a dispensation," said Archbishop Antonini. "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."

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