Miguel Obando y Bravo


Miguel Obando y Bravo

Miguel Obando y Bravo (born 2 February 1926 in La Libertad, Chontales Department) is a Nicaraguan prelate of the Roman Catholic Church. He was the Archbishop of Managua from 1985 until his resignation on 12 March 2005. On 25 May 1985, he was selected by Pope John Paul II to be cardinal in Central America. He was one of the cardinal electors who participated in the 2005 papal conclave that elected Pope Benedict XVI. In 1986 Universidad Francisco Marroquín honored Obando with an honorary doctoral degree[1] due to his commitment to individual freedom.

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Somoza regime

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.

Sandinistas in opposition

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 “Comandante Miguel” (painting him as a Sandinista leader).

Sandinistas in power

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.

He opposed the "people's church" (radical clergy who supported liberation theology), and banned the Misa Campesina Nicaragüense (Nicaraguan peasants' mass). He insisted on the canonical obligation of the clergy to refuse to undertake the exercise of civil power.[2] Thus, the Jesuit priest Fernando Cardenal (a brother of the poet priest Ernesto Cardenal), who refused to resign from his position as Minister of Education in the Sandinista government, was expelled from his order in 1984.[3]

Obando opposed what he called the "godless communism" of the Sandinistas. He criticized many of their policies, including military conscription and restrictions of press freedoms, and accused the Sandinistas of human rights violations. The Sandinistas, in turn, complained that he should have attacked US aid to the Contras. Initially, Obando y Bravo had promised to the public that if human rights abuses on the part of the Contras were verifiably reported, he would denounce them. However, when many such abuses were reported by organizations (including Human Rights Watch and several human rights groups established by clergy of the Catholic Church itself), he did not denounce them as he had pledged to. Instead, he travelled to the United States in January 1986 and declared his support for the Contras thereby encouraging the U.S. Congress to provide them with military aid. This set the stage for a sharp confrontation between him and the Sandinista government. The Sandinistas, who already in July 1984 had expelled ten foreign priests (who had expressed solidarity with another religious figure who had been accused of being a contrarevolutionary),[3] responded by rebuking Obando y Bravo repeatedly in public forums. Despite the popular support the Sandinistas enjoyed at the time, this episode certainly damaged that support, as Obando y Bravo was (as reported by journalist Stephen Kinzer) enduringly popular among Christian Nicaraguans.

Allegations of Anti-Semitism

Due to some of his interpretations of the role of Jews in Christian scripture, Obando y Bravo has been criticized as anti-semitic by scholars including Noam Chomsky. In particular, he has accused Jews of deicide: "the leaders of Israel... mistreated [the prophets], beat them, killed them. Finally as supreme proof of his love, God sent his Divine Son; but they... also killed him, crucifying him." He also was criticized for saying "the Jews killed the prophets and finally the son of God.. such idolatry calls forth the heavens' vengeance."

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