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Fr. Ernesto Cardenal. Fr. Ernesto Cardenal.  (AFP or licensors)

Pope lifts suspension on Nicaraguan priest Fr. Ernesto Cardenal

Pope Francis has lifted sanctions on Fr. Ernesto Cardenal of Nicaragua. The 94-year old priest was suspended from his priestly ministry and duties in 1984 by St. John Paul II because of his militancy and for being a minister in the government of Daniel Ortega.

By Robin Gomes

Pope Francis on Sunday lifted the sanctions “a divinis ” on Nicaraguan priest, Father Ernesto Cardenal, who was suspended from his priestly ministry 35 years ago because of his political militancy and for joining the Sandinista government of Daniel Ortega as Minister of Culture.

“With benevolence”, Pope Francis has granted Father Ernesto Cardenal absolution from "all canonical censorships" which he incurred in 1984, said Archbishop Waldemar Sommertag, the Apostolic Nuncio to Nicaragua, in a note.

When St. John Paul II visited Nicaragua in 1983, he sternly reprimanded Fr. Cardenal publicly at Managua airport. "You must fix your affairs with the Church," the Polish pope told him sternly.  A year later on Feb. 4, Pope John Paul suspended him "a divinis ".

Canon law (No. 285) forbids clerics from assuming public offices, an act that entails participation in the exercise of civil power.

However, in 1994 Cardenal abandoned the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN), criticizing what he interpreted as an authoritarian drift of the party.

Archbishop Sommertag said the 94-year old priest “accepted the canonical punishment imposed" on him at that time, keeping "always to it", "without carrying out any pastoral activity", having abandoned "for many years all political commitment".

The blessing of Pope Francis

Archbishop Sommertag concelebrated Holy Mass with Father Cardenal in the hospital of Managua, where the priest has been in poor health since early February.   It was the first Eucharistic celebration by the priest in more than 30 years.  The apostolic nuncio communicated to him the measure of his full reintegration by the Holy Father, conveying to him the blessing of the Pope so that he may live this moment of his life in peace with the Lord and with the Church.

Visibly happy and serene, the elderly priest expressed his gratitude to the Holy Father and to the nuncio.

Nuncio’s initiative

Several times in recent weeks, Archbishop Sommertag visited the ailing priest and theologian, who is regarded as a poet throughout Latin America and beyond.   Fr. Cardenal is also known for his literacy drive in the 80s, in which at 500,000 Nicaraguans learned to read and write. 

On February 2, Archbishop Sommertag went to meet Fr. Cardenal at his home Managua, during which the priest expressed the desire to "be readmitted to the exercise of the priestly ministry".  After hospitalization, the papal representative visited him in hospital on 11 February, on the occasion of the World Day of the Sick.  He visited him again on February 17, when he conveyed to him the decision of Pope Francis.

19 February 2019, 13:14