Many awaited Pope John Paul II’s visit to Nicaragua in March 1983 with much anticipation (Bahman, 1986). This is because it was during a period of heightened tensions not only between the Catholic Church and the Sandinista government but also between the government and the rebellious ‘contras’. The reform-minded Catholics expected that the pope would give the catholic hierarchy moral support to face the communist government as well as to give a stern warning to catholic priests who had involved themselves in government bureaucracy.
What position did the pope eventually make clear to the Nicaraguan priests?
The pope made it clear to the catholic priests that there was need for there to have unity within the church and that the authority of bishops was to be respected. He also made it clear that there was need for the priests to lead the church and the public in general through a series of religious education.
Why were some Nicaraguan Catholics disappointed with the pope’s position on political action?
Before the pope’s visit, the Catholic Church in Nicaragua had sharp differences and internal wrangles concerning the involvement of church leaders with a communist regime. By not criticizing the role played by Bishop Miguel Obando’s involvement in the crisis, the Catholic’s were afraid that the pope did not send the right picture concerning the political action to resolve the crisis
What did they, correctly as it proved, fear might happen after the pope’s visit?
Most of these Catholics were afraid that the Papal visit would not offer any religious or political solutions to the problem. As they had imagined the Papal visit actually exacerbated the problem causing the ‘contras’ to even use the pope’s visit as a moral justification for their cause (Belli, 1985 Hoyt, 1983). Because of this, visit tensions increased even between the church hierarchy and the Sandinista government due to the polarization of the church.
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