ASUNCION – The Catholic Church denounced on Friday corruption in Paraguay’s political and judicial spheres, as well as the nation’s social inequality, before a crowd of thousands including Paraguayan President Horacio Cartes, at the minor basilica in Caacupe where the country’s largest Marian festival was being held.
Before an esplanade packed with the faithful and such eminences as Vice President Juan Afara and Foreign Minister Eladio Loizaga, Caacupe’s Bishop Ricardo Valenzuela said in his sermon that the government is plagued with dishonest members, who with their acts of corruption hold back the progress of the Paraguayan people.
“Those in office and in powerful positions produce all kinds of abuse of the nation’s budget, so we cannot have a clear conscience if we fail to denounce those who engage in corruption and unless we demand that justice be done to them.”
He also questioned the workings of the Justice system because “it leans toward the side that has the most power.”
Valenzuela also called on those present to choose their political representatives with sound judgment in the coming elections, while urging politicians not to seek a win at the polls “by means of the lies and trickery that increasingly cloud our country’s political future.”
The bishop also recalled the five people kidnapped in the northern part of the country, believed to be held captive by the Paraguayan People’s Army (EPP) guerrilla group.
The presence of Cartes at the Mass in Caacupe was the last he would attend as Paraguay’s president, since his term in office ends after the general elections in April 2018.
The candidates in the general elections will be decided in the political parties’ primaries, to be held Dec. 17.
The pilgrimage to Our Lady of Miracles in Caacupe, some 55 kilometers (34 miles) from Asuncion, is one of the largest Marian feasts in Latin America.
As occurs every year, thousands of Paraguayans from all over the country gathered Friday at the sanctuary, which was raised to the rank of minor basilica by a Vatican decree in July 2015 to coincide with the visit of Pope Francis to that center of Paraguayan Catholicism.