Paraguayan President Fernando Lugo admitted Monday he is the father of a child conceived while he was still a Roman Catholic bishop.
Lugo surprised journalists by acknowledging he had an intimate relationship with Viviana Carrillo, the child's mother — just five days after lawyers for Carrillo announced they were filing a paternity suit against him.
"Here and now, before my people and my conscience, I declare with absolute honesty and a sense of duty and transparency in relation to the controversy provoked by the paternity suit, that there was a relationship with Viviana Carrillo," Lugo said.
"I assume all responsibilities ... and recognize the paternity of the child," Lugo said, promising to protect the boy's privacy.
The president said he will not comment further on the matter, but will instead focus on his presidency.
'He proves us right'
Carrillo did not immediately respond to the president's surprise announcement, but her lawyer, Claudio Kostinchok, said he was pleased.
"By recognizing he is the father of the child, he proves us right," Kostinchok said. "We didn't invent anything."
Kostinchok said he didn't know immediately what would happen with the lawsuit. Last week, he said he would withdraw it after Carrillo denied approving it.
But Judge Evelyn Peralta said the law requires the case to continue, even if Carrillo's lawyers withdraw it. Lugo will be notified in three days of the content of the lawsuit, she said.
Lugo, 57, resigned in 2004 as bishop of San Pedro, capital city of San Pedro province, which is the poorest region of the landlocked South American country. Carrillo is from the province.
In December 2006, he announced that he was renouncing the status of bishop itself to run for president. But it was not until July 31 of last year that Pope Benedict XVI gave him unprecedented permission to resign, relieving him of his chastity vows.
The Vatican had insisted during the 2008 presidential campaign that Lugo would always be a bishop under church law.
Kostinchok says the boy was born on May 4, 2007, and that the child is named after Lugo's grandfather, Guillermo Armindo.
Teen when relationship began
Carrillo is now 26, but her intimate relationship with the bishop-turned-president began when she was 16, according to local news media reports.
Msgr. Mario Melanio Medina, bishop from the southern province of Misiones, was the first member of the Paraguayan clergy to react.
"Lugo lied to the Church, but better late than never, as the saying goes," Medina said. "He won't be the only one who lies to the Church, but he recognized his mistake and that is a courageous act" that may serve as an example for others to follow, the bishop added.
Sen. Julio Cesar Velazquez, from the opposition Colorado Party, called on the Catholic Church to excommunicate Lugo for having an intimate relation with an "adolescent" while Lugo was still a bishop.
Political analyst Carlos Martino, meanwhile, said Lugo's acknowledgment of his paternity effectively stopped the growing controversy dead in its tracks.
"Surely he is not the first bishop with a child," Martino said.