Paraguay’s influential Catholic Church Episcopal Conference, CEP asked Tuesday in an official release “forgiveness for all the sins of the members of the Church” in direct reference, --but without mentioning a word--, to President Fernando Lugo’s confession of fathering a child while he was Catholic bishop.
President Lugo, 58, on Monday admitted a relation with Viviana Carrillo, 26, mother of a child born May 2007. He was conceived while Lugo was bishop of San Pedro, a poor peasants’ area 350 kilometres to the north of the capital Asuncion.
The release does not specifically mention Lugo but refers to the “latest events”, the scandal triggered last week, in the middle of Holy Week, when Ms Carrillo’s solicitors presented a paternity demand in court.
“We ask for forgiveness for the sins committed by members of the Church, both clergymen and the faithful”, said the release which also called on bishops and priests to renew their Holy Week Chrismal Mass pleges including celibacy.
“We call on all the faithful Catholics and good willed people to pray for us to remain faithful to our clergy and episcopal mission”.
Monsignor Claudio Jimenez, CEP vice-president admitted that the recent events have had an impact on the Paraguayan Catholic Church. “There are people who have an impression about bishops and we must overcome ourselves to recover that consideration”, he said.
In December 2006, five months before the birth of the child Lugo resigned as bishop to begin his political career which had him elected president, causing an unexpected upheaval in Paraguayan politics, known for its corruption and patronizing.
During the campaign on several occasions he was accused by the then ruling Colorado Party of having children which Mr. Lugo repeatedly rejected.
“I don’t answer rumours. If they are serious, somebody should file a claim”, was his usual reply to the allegations.
At first the Vatican rejected Lugo’s petition for layman's status, suspending him from priestly duties but saying he was still a bishop since his ordination was a lifelong sacrament.
However the Vatican changed its position after he won the election and Pope Benedict granted an unprecedented “ad divinis” waiver to allow him to serve as president without violating church rules.
At the time Lugo insinuated he was prepared to return to the Church, but a leading member of the Catholic hierarchy in Asunción, Narciso Velazquez said that following the events that option was “practically” ruled out, although the final decision belonged to the Pope.