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Nicaraguan Cardinal Under Communist Fire

Two Catholic American
Cardinals Defend
Cardinal Obando y Bravo

Miguel d'Escoto was born in Hollywood, California, in 1933. He became a Catholic priest in the Maryknoll Fathers in 1962. Since 1970 from within the Maryknoll community in New York, holding a very influential position there, he collaborated closely with the Commu­nist Sandinistas until they rose to power and named him foreign minister in 1979.

Because he refused to desist from holding this job in the Communist government, the Nicaraguan bishops were forced to publicly suspend him from exercising all his priestly functions in 1981.

Miguel d'Escoto still is suspended as he still, against his vows, holds the same government job. On March 3, 1986, on Nicaraguan television, d'Escoto gave a speech publicly insulting and condemning the Nicaraguan Cardinal Obando y Bravo for not siding with the Com­munist regime against the anti-Communists. D'Escoto said among other things against the Cardinal, "There is no word uttered by human mouth, no adjective that we could use to truly describe the horror, the disgust pro­duced by this brother of ours."

On March 14, 1986, two weeks after Father d'Escoto delivered his speech in Managua, the following letter was issued by New York's Cardinal John O'Connor and Boston's Cardinal Bernard Law, strongly backing Nicaragua's embattled Cardinal Miguel Obando y Bravo. His Eminence John Cardinal O'Connor is Honorary Chairman of Maryknoll — the community of American priests and brothers to which Father d'Escoto belongs — established in 1911 by action of the United States Hierarchy.

Your Eminence:

The present trials through which you and the Church in Nicaragua are suffering are a poignant reminder that the mystery of the Cross continues to be lived in the Body of Christ. During this Lent, your two brother bishops in the United States, who were called to membership in the College of Cardinals with you last May, have often thought of you and discussed the courageous efforts you make for the well-being of the Church and the people of Nicaragua. We have taken the extraordinary step of making this letter public so that the faithful in our archdioceses and as many as possible in our country will know what is actually happening to their brothers and sisters in Nicaragua.

We share your deep pain when your people are denied full opportunity to build a just, peaceful and progressive society based on the transcendent dignity of each human person. We know your suffering when attempts are made to violate the religious conscience of Nicaraguans by denying them access to the liberating teachings of the Church, This has been done by physical harassment, crude attempts at intimidation, and censorship. Priests have been summarily expelled from your country.

Offices of your archdiocese have been raided by military personnel and remain under military occupation. The archdiocesan newspaper, Iglesia, was confiscated after its first edition, and the Catholic radio remains closed. You are subjected to a barrage of distortions, slanderous insults and innuendo at home and by some representa­tives of the government abroad.

In this ordeal, the Church in Nicaragua has been seeking to maintain the constructive dialogue with the government in an attempt to reach a climate of mutual respect so that the Church can play a role in the reconstruction of your country. We want to assure you of our solidarity with you. With you we are praying for that peaceful reconciliation necessary to rekindle the original hope of the revolution. For this to take place, it is essential that there be an immediate cessation of the present unjust restrictions suffered by the Church and other sectors of Nicaraguan society. This will undoubt­edly provide a powerful impetus for the just resolution of the conflicts in your country and in that strife-torn region.

Be assured of our prayers and support, our brother Cardinal, through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the "Most Pure," as the Nicaraguan people particularly venerate her.

Fraternally yours in Christ,

Bernard Cardinal Law, Archbishop of Boston
John Cardinal O'Connor, Archbishop of New York