Nicaraguans expected a lot during Pope’s visit into the country in 1983. The visit took place during a period when contra war had taken root in Latin America. During this period, there were heightened tensions between the Sandinista state and Nicaraguan Catholics. The Nicaraguan catholic community was not in good terms with the government because of the murder of several priests, nuns and Christians in the country. Both the citizens and the people had many expectations during the day of the visit. The government of Sandinista declared the day a public holiday. The two warring groups, Nicaraguan catholic community and the Sandinista government expected several things from the Pope.
To start with, the catholic community expected that the Pope would support their efforts to counter communism, which they considered godless. On the other hand, government officials hoped that the Pope would act as a unifying figure between Nicaragua and America. The leaders hoped that the Pope would act as a mediator by supporting Nicaragua’s opposition to the Americans. Due to this, the government encouraged people to attend the visit by offering them free transportation to Managua, the site of the visit. Revolutionaries hoped that the Pope would say a prayer for the dead and support the poor in Nicaragua. During the mass people became impatient and termed Pope’s mass unusual because he did not seem to care about what the people was expecting. Instead, he tried to avoid speaking about peace in Nicaragua (Dodson, 1986).
Rather than resolving the rivalry between the catholic community and the state, the Pope heightened it. He stressed on the importance of unity in the church, as the best way of preventing Nicaragua from being influenced by communism. However, he spoke vividly against the emerging tensions within the church and the leadership. Moreover, he stressed on the authority of Bishops and why religious was paramount in Nicaragua. He spoke negatively about the five priests who held positions of power in the government. His speech suggested that the priests were not supposed to support heinous activities carried out by the government. However, he supported Vatican’s support to the conservative bishop, who later became the cardinal.
Pope’s visit was not taken well by the vast majority. His political actions were considered dangerous by the vast majority who were convinced that the Vatican was not addressing their problems. When the Pope failed to address the dead who died as a result of the civil war, Nicaraguans were convinced that the Pope did not care about their welfare. They were all disappointed by the actions because the Pope’s utterances seemed to bring more troubles in the country. Disapproving priests in the government was not taken well because the vast majority thought that they would not be presented well in the government.
On the other hand, the visit gave Nicaraguan contras a chance to fight Catholics in the land. The visit was used as propaganda, and gave contras support to continue harassing Nicaraguans. The fact that the Pope did not make sympathetic remarks made Nicaraguans think that, no one was hearing their cries. They feared this visit would pass a message that killings were not bad in the country. If the Pope had addressed their concerns, they would feel more secure and that Vatican was helping them fight for their rights (Weigel & Tsoutsouvas, 1999).
- Dodson, M. (1986). The politics of religion in revolutionary Nicaragua. Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 483(1), 36-49.
- Weigel, G., & Tsoutsouvas, S. (1999). Witness to hope: the biography of Pope John Paul II (p. 169). New York: Cliff Street Books.