ENG - Miguel Obando y Bravo (born February 2, 1926) is a Nicaraguan prelate of the Roman Catholic Church. He was the Archbishop of Managua from 1985 until his resignation on March 12, 2005. He was one of the cardinal electors who participated in the 2005 papal conclave that selected Pope Benedict XVI.
Obando was a crucial figure in Nicaraguan politics. He became a vocal opponent of the corruption of the Anastasio Somoza regime in the late 1970s by expressing criticism in his pastoral letters as well as through the columns he wrote for the Boletín de la Arquidiócesis de Managua. He was critical of the corruption of the regime as it manifested itself through the government’s mismanagement of relief funds after the 1972 Managua Earthquake, and became an outspoken critic of the human rights abuses carried out by the National Guard. The Archbishop helped to delegitimize the regime by refusing to accept the Mercedes automobile Somoza gave him and rejecting invitations to attend official state ceremonies.
Obando served as an intermediary between the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) and the Somoza government on two occasions during Sandinista staged hostage-taking incidents. In a pastoral letter written in June 1979 the Archbishop spoke in favor of the Sandinistas' use of armed force to overthrow the Somoza regime and encouraged Nicaraguans not to fear socialism. As a result of his criticism of the Somoza regime, the Archbishop was often referred to by the government as “Comandate Miguel” (a Sandinista leader).
The Archbishop’s relationship with the Sandinistas altered dramatically by the early 1980s; he ultimately became one of the most vocal domestic opponents of the revolutionary government. Obando’s primary goal was to resolve the divisions within the Church by requesting obedience to his authority. He opposed the “popular church” (radical clergy who supported liberation theology) because its very existence challenged the hierarchy’s centralized authority.
Therefore, he encouraged priests who held positions within the Sandinista government to resign on the grounds that their political involvement threatened Church unity. On December 10, 1984, Ernesto Cardenal, a Jesuit priest who refused to resign from his position as the Minister of Education, was removed from the order by the Jesuit headquarters whose actions were prompted by the pressure put on them by the Archbishop and the Vatican.
Obando opposed the “godless communism” of the Sandinistas by criticizing many of the Sandinista policies, including military conscription, and by railing against the human rights abuses committed by the Sandinistas. He legitimized the actions of the counter-revolutionaries by failing to attack US aid to the Contras. The Archbishop travelled to the United States in January 1986 and proclaimed his support for the Reagan administration-funded Contras in order to encourage the U.S. Congress to provide military aid to the contras. In response to the Archbishop’s active involvement in the political sphere as a vocal source of opposition, the Sandinistas responded with oppressive measures that included the expulsion of foreign priests from Nicaragua. Obando was selected by Pope John Paul II to be the only cardinal in Central America on May 25, 1985.
12th Dec 08