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Theology Thursdays: Nicaraguan Cardinal Forgives Sandinistas

MANAGUA, Nicaragua (AP) -- The Sandinista Front celebrated the 25th anniversary of its victory on Monday with an expression of forgiveness from Roman Catholic Cardinal Miguel Obando y Bravo.

The cardinal offered a Mass "for peace and reconciliation" and in memory of more than 50,000 people who died during the wars of the 1970s and 1980s.

The Mass, the first of a series of planned anniversary events on Monday, was a symbol of the Sandinistas' efforts to reach out to a church with which they had troubled relations while in power from 1979 to 1990.

Sandinista leader Daniel Ortega recently made a public appeal for forgiveness from the cardinal.

"Without this pardon, the wounds will continue to bleed, feeding future generations with an endless disgust that is the source of vengeance and the cause of new ruins," the cardinal said before a congregation that was about as numerous as that on a typical Sunday.

"One cannot remain a prisoner of the past," the cardinal said. "It is necessary to purify memory."

While in power, the Sandinistas attracted the support of many priests who embraced a left-leaning version of liberation theology, but relations with other clerics -- and with Pope John Paul II -- were prickly. Some priests were openly attacked and some Sandinista followers insulted the pope when he arrived for a visit.

During the 11 years of Sandinista control,The Sandinistas were celebrating the 25th anniversary of the day their leftist guerrilla forces toppled dictator Anastasio Somoza.

Ortega was installed as president as Somoza was overthrown on July 19, 1979. Guided by Cuban and Eastern European advisers, Nicaragua's Sandinista armed forces later battled U.S.-backed Contra rebels until Ortega lost the presidency in 1990.

Since then, Ortega and his Sandinista National Liberation Front have lost two additional presidential elections, while remaining a major factor in the nation's politics.

Copyright 2004 The Associated Press

Thursday, July 29, 2004

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