Reaction from the Reformist
The Catholic Church in Nicaragua experienced internal struggle during and after the revolution this was between those who supported the Marxist ideals of liberation and the opponents who were conservatives.
When the Pope visited the country in 1983, the church was extremely polarized within its hierarchy. The relation with Sandinista government was not cordial (Hogan, 2005).
Both the church and the state eagerly waited for the arrival of the Pope the reform minded Catholics believed the Pope would support their efforts (Kathy, 1983). The church had previously supported and specified circumstances where rebellion or insurrection may be justified.
For instance, the bishop’s conference of 1968 in Medellin, Colombia the liberation theology was endorsed (Hogan, 2005). The priest believed that supporting the Marxist group amounted to championing the interest of the poor something Christ would do under similar circumstances.
The government, on the other hand, expected the Pope to play a mediator role to support the peace process, and even to condemn the counter revolutionaries.
That is why the government mobilized people to attend the papal mass at Managua by offering free transportation and declaring the day as a national holiday (Kathy, 1983).
The Pope’s Verdict
The pope clearly stated his position to the Nicaraguan priests that he was supporting the conservatives and not the revolutionary Catholics. He pleaded with the poor that they were living in unjust and inhuman condition, but that would not be the reason to rise in arms against the oppressor.
The pope’s visit did not improve the situation but made it even worse (Kathy, 1983). He steered clear from the tensions between the church and the state and emphasized the need for unity in the church to avoid corruption from outside and the Marxist influence.
He spoke against the division which was emerging in the hierarchy of the church and confirmed the authority of bishops in the church (Hogan, 2005). He supported the conservative archbishop Miguel Obando and spoke against the priests who held positions in government and the need to regularize their position.
He argued that the priests and bishops were considered as the spouses of Christ and the church, and they were not supposed to hold a compensated political office (Kathy, 1983).
Why Some Were Disappointed
Some Nicaraguan Catholics were disappointed by the pope’s position on political action because it convinced them that the pope and the Vatican did not understand their problems.
This is because the same venue, where the papal mass was conducted had been used previously to commemorate the lives of seventeen youths who were killed in an ambush (Kathy, 1983).
The pope did not mention the incident neither did he offer any consolation to the families of the deceased. His silence on the matter perplexed many, because they knew the pope would at least mention the incident (Goff, Moss, Terry, Upshur & Schroeder, 2008).
Fear After Pope’s Visit
Previously the pope had chastised one priest when he arrived at the airport for associating with an organization of farm workers. From this people feared that unity would not be achieved, and schism was almost inevitable.
The priests, on the other hand, hoped to present their case before the pope, but it did not happen. The expectations of the poor people had been exaggerated by the church and the state, and that led to chanting during mass that they needed peace and a prayer for their dead.
The mothers whose sons were murdered were the most discouraged because the pope did not offer the prayer of peace, which would have consoled them. The Lord’s Prayer, which is seen as a sign of peace, was not offered either (Hogan, 2005).
Goff, R., Moss, W., Terry, J., Upshur, J., & Schroeder, M. (2008). The twentieth century and beyond- A global history. (7th ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.
Hogan, M. (2005). Latin America – An Historical Perspective on the Politics of the Catholic Church in Latin America. Latin America and the Caribbean. Retrieved from http://www.alterinfos.org/spip.php?article103
Kathy, L. (1983). The 1983 Visit of Pope John Paul II to Nicaragua. World History Archives. Retrieved from http://www.hartford-hwp.com/archives/47/030.html