Catholic Church in Nicaragua

The Catholic Church in Nicaragua is the Nicaraguan part of the worldwide Catholic Church, under the spiritual leadership of the Pope, curia in Rome, and the Conference of Nicaraguan Bishops.

There are 2,652,985 Catholics in Nicaragua - approximately 58,5%[1] of the total population according to the INEC.[2] The country is divided into seven dioceses including one archdiocese.

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.

In the second half of the 20th century, some Church leaders were supportive of Marxist-type revolutions, as elsewhere in South America, supporting liberation theology.


Nicaraguan Revolution

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.

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