CAACUPE, Paraguay (CWN) - A Paraguayan bishop warned Christians on Sunday that laziness is contrary to the message of the Gospel, yet it is all too common is society today.

      "The Gospel is a permanent lesson of courage, generosity, and hard work," and is therefore "a strong denunciation of laziness," said Bishop Claudio Gimenez of Caacupe, Paraguay. During a strongly-worded homily in a Mass for pilgrims at the National Marian Shrine of Our Lady of Caacupe, Bishop Gimenez said: "Laziness is not only a dramatic problem in our society, but is also contrary the teachings of our faith. The Gospels denounce those who are lazy, those who do not look for a decent job, those who have money to drink beer but not to feed their children." He added, "To be a Christian means to accept a responsibility before society and to be someone willing to cooperate in the formation of a culture of justice and reconciliation."

      The bishop also said: "Catholics are not afraid of poverty, suffering, and problems in life, but they do not cooperate with poverty or suffering with a weak attitude or a lack of energy in confronting the problems of life. Our capacity to accept suffering, to share the cross of Christ, cannot be used as a pretext to avoid hard work and be a victim of misery."

      To the north in Central America's Paraguay, Cardinal Miguel Obando y Bravo of Managua, in the midst of increasing social tensions that some fear could cause a new armed rebellion, called for a "culture of dialogue" to enter the current political climate.

      Several political tensions have been creating distress in Nicaragua's society in recent months, including The executive power vs. the supreme court, the ruling party vs. the Marxist Sandinistas in Congress, and between former Sandinista and Contra rebel groups. The rebels have threatened to take up arms again if the government does not provide them with land. In addition, several unions, including those of state workers and teachers, have begun marching in protest against the government.

      "The only solution for administrative, social, or political problems in Nicaragua is through the creation of a culture of dialogue replacing the current culture of tension and violence," Cardinal Obando y Bravo said. He added that "each person must realize that there are no perfect solutions and that each side must give something in exchange." Later, making clear reference to Nicaragua's civil war, he said that "history is a good school where we can learn the dramatic consequences of irrational tensions and misunderstandings."

      Meanwhile, while the Cardinal and Bishop were speaking out in the southern hemisphere of the Americas, on the other side of the Pacific rim in Manila Cardinal Jaime Sin said on Sunday that even though dictator Ferdinand Marcos is long gone, the Philippines still suffers with corrupt politicians.

      Cardinal Sin, who was a key figure in the 1986 peaceful revolt that forced Marcos from power, marked the 12th anniversary of that event with a homily denouncing politicians who buy elections and accept kickbacks from special interests. At an open-air Mass attended by more than 10,000 people, including President Fidel Ramos and former President Corazon Aquino, the cardinal said Filipinos have short memories because they have forgotten the lessons of 1986.

      "We are tempted to despair when great achievements of People Power are betrayed to the 'trapo' or squandered by the faint-hearted," Cardinal Sin said. He said the "trapo" were the politicians who cheated to get elected and manipulated people for selfish ends.

      On Saturday, the cardinal was criticized by a presidential candidate for meddling in politics. Vice-President Joseph Estrada, the front-runner in the presidential race, criticized the cardinal for urging Filipinos not to be swayed by popularity polls in choosing their next president on May 11. "Do not just march with the popular. Go with the choice of conscience and morality," the cardinal had said in a statement which some newspapers interpreted as a call for voters to reject Estrada. Estrada has publicly acknowledged having engaged in many extramarital sexual affairs.

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February 26, 1998 volume 9, no. 41         DAILY CATHOLIC