Catholic Church in Nicaragua
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Evangelization of Nicaragua began shortly after the Spanish conquest. In 1532, the first bishop took jurisdiction in that country. Jesuits were the leaders in mission work in the colonial period, which last till the 1820s. After Nicaragua became a republic in 1838, evangelization intensified, reaching the Atlantic coastline.
The role of the Catholic Church in the Nicaraguan Revolution is best described as an internal struggle between leftist supporters of liberation theology and the Sandinistas and the conservative opponents who sided with John Paul II and the conservative episcopal conference and opposed the Marxists.
The Catholic Church has a long history of close relations with the state and government in power. In the colonial period, the Church acted as a check on conquistadors who pursued their own feudal interests contrary to those of the Spanish Crown and those of the Church itself. The Church served the crown by attempting to curb liberals wanting economic independence.
When the revolutionary struggle began in the 1960s and 1970s with the Sandinistas, the Church did not support it. The ideology of the revolution was Marxist and against religion. The Catholic Church was religious and so was threatened by the revolution.
The Catholic Church was still loyal to the Somoza regime at the beginning of the revolution, but acts of repression and human abuses became prevalent by Somoza and horrified the Church. Somoza engaged in violent tactics such as the authorization of bombings of major cities, some of which targeted the church in his attempts to hold on to power.
Somoza soon began losing popularity among the masses, and slowly, the support of the Sandinistas became more prevalent. Somoza's constant use of the state for the purpose of his own interests turned the Church against him. Eventually, many in the Church supported the Sandinistas when they overthrew Somoza.
The reorganization of pastoral work led to the formation of Christian base communities (CEBs), which incorporated the laity’s importance in the pastoral mission. Religious activity at the grassroots increased and brought new vitality to the church. Peasants were unable to organize under the repressive Somoza regime, but under the CEBs, these peasants were allowed to congregate and this is how the grassroots organizations were born.
Notes and references
- Bahman, Baktiari. "Revolution and the Church in Nicaragua and El Salvador." Journal of Church and State 28:1 (1986), 15-42]
- Chasteen, John Charles. Born in Blood and Fire: A concise History of Latin America. (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2001).
- Deighton, Jane. "Sweet Ramparts: Women in Revolutionary Nicaragua." War on want and the Nicaraguan Solidarity Campaign. Sussex, London: 1983. Part Five, pp. 139–157.
- Dodson, Michael. “The Politics of Religion in Revolutionary Nicaragua.” Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 483 (1986): 36-49.
- Gismondi, Michael A. “Transformations in the Holy Religious Resistance and Hegemonic Struggles in the Nicaraguan Revolution”. Latin American Perspectives, 50.13.3 (1986) 13-36.
- Greil, Arthur L. and Kowalewski, David. “Church-State relations in Russia and Nicaragua: Early revolutionary years”. Journal for Scientific Study of Religion 26.1 (1987) 92-104.
- Kearney, Michael. “Religion, Ideology, and Revolution in Latin America”. Latin American Perspectives, 50.13.3 (1986) 3-12.
- Kirk, John M. Politics and the Catholic Church in Nicaragua. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 1992.
- Klaiber, Jeffrey L. "Prophets and Populists: Liberation Theology, 1968-1988". The Americas, Vol. 46, No. 1. (Jul., 1989), pp. 1–15.
- Klabier, Jefferey. "The Church, Dictatorships, and Democracy in Latin America." Orbis Books. New York; 1998: Ch. 10
- Lewellen, Ted C. “Holy and Unholy Alliances: The Politics of Catholicism in Revolutionary Nicaragua.” Journal of Church and State 31.1 (1989) 15-33.
- Mulligan, Joseph E. The Nicaraguan Church and the Revolution. Kansas: Sheed & Ward, 1991.
- Williams, Philip J. “The Catholic Hierarchy in the Nicaraguan Revolution.” Journal of Latin American Studies 17.2 (1985) 341-369.