The 1983 Visit of Pope John Paul II to Nicaragua
In the year 1983, Pope John Paul made a historical, pastoral visit to Nicaragua in Central America during one of his visits in Central America. This visit was significant because it happened during the Contra War when the country was polarized between the various religious groupings. These groupings were either catholic or populists sections of the Nicaraguan church. This evident polarization resulted in tensions between the hierarchy, in the churches, as well as in the Sandinista state.
The church was awaiting the arrival of the pope that year with the simple notion that the pope would offer direction in the dispute against the communist Sandinista government. The church expected that their actions would be legitimized by the Pope’s visit. On the other hand, the Sandinista government was expectant that the arrival would be significant in that he would act as a mediator for the peace process given the escalating tensions in the public domain. The Sandinista government also expected that the Pope would rebuke the receipt of American aid to the people. The population in the areas of Leon and Managua were encouraged to attend the papal masses, which were held in the two venues respectively. The masses were further popularized by the government with the declaration of the day of the visit by the pope a national holiday.
However, the expectations from the two opposing sides were not met. This is because the visit ignited further tensions between the two opposing sides. The Pope was adamant that the church was failing in its role to combat what was considered “godless communism” because of lack of unity in the church. He stressed that unity was essential in fighting communism given that there were evident divisions within the church because of various views held towards communism. The Pope was angered by the utter division in the church, which was between the populist church and the institutional hierarchal church. These two feudal groups within the church had different principles as one was aimed at pleasing the masses whereas the other was acting out of its mandate and protocol.
This resulted in evident divisions in the public by people who were for the revolution and those that were against the revolution. He restated that the Vatican supported the then Catholic Archbishop Miguel Obando Bravo, and rebuked the five church priests who were of the opinion that it was necessary for the government to reject any form of aid from the United States of America. The Pope gave an express indication to the Nicaraguan populace of the least intentions of the Vatican to involve itself in the affairs of the country. This is evidenced by the inability of the Pope to give condolences to the deceased individuals, murdered by the contras, whose funeral mass was held in the church where the Pope held one of his masses.
The visit by the Pope exacerbated the tensions between the opposing sides in the country. This played a significant role in the eventual Nicaraguan civil war. Hence, the Vatican, through the Pope, had a role in the resulting conflict, as the Pope, an agent of the Vatican, cultivated hatred between the opposing sides. People were afraid that this would result in greater conflicts given that neither of the opposing sides would yield to any form of consensus in order to achieve peace.
In essence, the visit by the Pope affirmed that he was not pleased by the divisions in the Nicaraguan Catholic Church. He was of the opinion that they had failed in their role of ensuring morality prevailed in the country through unity. He implied that the corruption in the church had to be done away with in order to fight the communist Sandinista government. However, the effects of failure by the Pope’s visiting to mediate in the conflict baffled the people as they expected the Pope as a man of god to ensure that peace prevailed in the predominantly Catholic state.
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