Saturday, September 27, 2008

Missionary priest says Lugo will be messiah of Paraguay

Fr Michael Reddan, a priest based in Birr and a Divine Word missionary, has spoken of his pride and hopes at the election of Fernando Lugo as president of Paraguay.

Fr Reddan worked alongside Lugo, a former bishop who became president last month and ended the rule of the Colorado Party which had effectively been in power continuously since the 1950s.

The former missionary, who retired from Paraguay and now works in St Brendan’s parish in Birr, said the change of regime was bringing a time of hope to Paraguay.

“I could sense the passion and commitment Fernando had for his people especially the poor and the marginalised,” he recalled.

“In 1994, he was ordained bishop for the poorest diocese and the one most abandoned by the government”.

“I saw Fernando serve the diocese with great intensity and passion, working with all his heart and might for agrarian reform and against the multinational invasion that was bringing devastation to people,” said Fr Reddan.

Paraguay is a most unequal society, with 70 per cent of land in the hands of 1.7 per cent of landowners, he said.

But he predicted that without a shadow of a doubt, his erstwhile colleague will be a “great messiah for the people of Paraguay”.

Fr Reddan worked in Paraguay from 1981 until 2001 and said he had seen at first hand the evil, the power and the corruption of the Colorado Party.

Paraguay was run by the dictatorship of General Alfredo Stroessnor from 1954 to 1989.

Though Stroessner himself was overthrown, his party, the National Republican Association-Colorado Party, survived his departure and remained in power until last April when Lugo’s Patriotic Alliance for Change won the election.

Fr Reddan said that the failure to remove the Colorado Party along with its mentor left a “psychological attachment to authoritarian rule”. He said that Stroessnor, who was a Catholic in name, had the Colorado party at his service and it built a system of patronage so entrenched that it may well have been the government itself.

Party members were the government's doctors, diplomats, university administrators, judges and lawyers and 85 per cent of the national budget went on the salaries of a small elite, Fr Reddan claimed.

He met the parents of the future president soon after arriving in Paraguay because they were his parishioners and became a regular visitor to their home.

In 1982 Lugo became novice master in the seminary to which Fr Reddan was attached and they too became friends. He described the president as “outspoken and fearless” in his criticism of the Colorado regime.

“To speak out as a humble priest of the poor was one thing but to speak with the purple prestige of a bishop was a different matter”.

Fr Reddan said he had no doubt that only Fernando Lugo Mendez could have brought together a coalition capable of ousting the ruling party.

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(Source: CIN)

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