The Vatican says Pope Benedict XVI has allowed Paraguayan President-elect Fernando Lugo to resign his status as a Catholic bishop so he can take office next month without violating church rules.

Roman Catholic Church officials said Wednesday the pope gave Mr. Lugo a dispensation that changes the incoming president's status from bishop to layman. It is the first time the church has granted such a waiver to a bishop, although Catholic priests have been allowed to change their clerical status to take political office.

Officials say the pope agreed to change Mr. Lugo's status as bishop because the position is incompatible with serving as president. The incoming Paraguayan leader will remain a member of the church.

Mr. Lugo said in 2006 he wanted to resign as bishop to run for political office. Church leaders said his presidential ambitions violated papal rules against priestly involvement in politics.

Once called the bishop of the poor, Mr. Lugo was ordained into the priesthood in 1977.

The incoming Paraguayan leader was elected in April, ending the 61-year rule of the country's Colorado Party. He will be sworn in on August 15. Mr. Lugo heads the center-left Patriotic Alliance for Change - a coalition that includes the main opposition party, trade unions, farm groups and Indians.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.