CIUDAD DEL ESTE, Paraguay (AP) — Children awaiting surgery and women fleeing domestic violence never saw the $350,000 donated for their benefit. Then, there were the questionable property sales and the money for a cleaning business partially owned by a relative.
In the months since Pope Francis ousted the bishop of Paraguay’s second-largest diocese, questions keep surfacing about the Rev. Rogelio Livieres Plano’s management of church money.
As Paraguayan Catholics prepare to welcome Francis during his South American tour that starts July 5, new leaders of the diocese in this eastern border city are trying to erase the debt left by the controversial bishop, raising money through raffles and bingo games. Many parishioners are demanding answers.
“The former bishop ran things like a mafia,” said Carlos Pereira, a humanities professor at the Catholic University in Ciudad del Este. “How did we end up in debt? What happened to the diocese’s properties, to all its assets?”
The diocese is $800,000 in debt, a considerable sum in one of South America’s poorest countries. The arrears have come to light since Livieres Plano, a member of the conservative Opus Dei movement, was pushed out in September.