Nicaraguan Bishops’ Pastoral Letter on Reconciliation

The letter below was issued on Easter Sunday of this year by the Nicaraguan Episcopal Conference. In the letter, the bishops offer their analysis of the present turmoil in their country and suggest some possible solutions for ending the conflicts and divisions there.

To the priests and deacons in our dioceses:

To the members of religious orders:

To catechists and bearers of the Word:

To our brothers and sisters in the apostolic lay movement: To principals, teachers, and students in Catholic schools: To all our beloved faithful:

Grace and peace from God our Father and Jesus Christ our Lord.

Dear brothers and sisters:

At this solemn Easter celebration, the ultimate expression of God’s love for mankind through the redemption, we invite you to share more fully in the spiritual wealth of the Holy Year, which will be extended in Nicaragua by a special concession from Pope John Paul II until June 17, 1984, the feast of the Holy Trinity.

This extension and the urgent need in our society for sincere and brotherly reconciliation through individual con-version have moved us to send you this exhortation.


Sin, the root of all evil

When sin came into the world, all things were changed profoundly; the soil yielded brambles; civilizations and institutions passed away; man himself rebelled against his fellow men, and the empire of tyranny and death began (cf. Gen. 3.16-19; 4.7-8).

Man, created in the image of God (Gen. 1.26) did not wish to acknowledge or glorify Him; man became vain in his imagination, and his foolish heart was darkened (Rom. 1.21). There were also those who, like Satan, disguised themselves as angels of light to deceive others and lead them to perdition (cf. 2 Cor. 11.14-15). A poorly understood anthropocentrism plunged mankind into the heavy bondage of sin.

Redemption by Christ

Christ, by His death and resurrection, has reconciled us to God, to ourselves, and to our brothers and sisters, has freed us from the bondage of sin (cf. Col. 1.20-22; 2 Cor. 5.18), and has given His Church the mission of transmitting His message, pardon, and grace (cf. Mt. 28.18-20; Mk. 16.15-20).

All this should be for us a call to conversion; it should be the beginning of a radical change in spirit, mind, and life (cf. John Paul II, Bull, “Open the Doors to the Redeemer,” No. 5).

There are three aspects to this conversion, which redeems our individual and collective lives. We must avoid personal sin, any act that disrupts our baptismal alliance with God. We must banish any sinful attitudes from our hearts, that is, any habitual rejection, whether conscious or un-conscious, of Christian standards and moral values. We must put an end to such sins of society as participation in injustice and violence.

Sin after the Redemption

Nonetheless, sin has persisted in the world since our redemption by Christ, because man abuses his freedom and does not accept God’s grace. Society has become secularized and is no longer oriented toward God; it does not heed the Church, the universal sacrament of salvation, but considers it an alienating institution. At times it claims to accept Christ and His teachings, but it repudiates the Church and thereby falls into the temptation of establishing other “churches” than the one founded by the apostles and their successors, the legitimate bishops. We forget that coexistence can only be based on an accurate perception of the individual as an intelligent, free, and religious human being, with rights and duties devolving from his very nature (cf. John XXIII, Pacem in Terris, No. 9-10). Materialistic concepts of mankind distort the person and teachings of Christ, reduce man to merely physical terms without taking account of his spiritual nature, so he remains subject to physical forces called the “dialectics of history.” And man, alienated from God and from himself, becomes disoriented, without moral and religious reference points, without a higher nature, insecure and violent.


The Problem of Sin in the World

Pope John Paul II, in his message for the 17th World Day of Prayer for Peace on January 1, 1984, expressed his concern about the current world situation, a concern which we, too, share: “Peace is truly precarious, and injustice abounds. Relentless warfare is occurring in many countries, continuing on and on despite the proliferation of deaths, mourning, and destruction, without any apparent progress toward a solution. It is often the innocent who suffer, while passions become inflamed and there is the risk that fear will lead to an extreme situation.”

In Nicaragua

Our country, too, is plagued by a belligerent situation pitting Nicaraguan against Nicaraguan, and the consequences of this situation could not be sadder. Many Nicaraguan youths and men are dying on the battlefields. Many others look toward the future with the fear of seeing their own lives prematurely ended. A materialistic and atheistic educational system is undermining the consciences of our children. Many families are divided by political differences. The suffering of mothers who have lost their children, which should merit our great respect, is instead exploited to incite hatred and feed the desire for vengeance. Farm workers and Indians, for whom the Church reserves a special love, are suffering, living in constant anxiety, and many of them are forced to abandon their homes in search of a peace and tranquility that they do not find. Some of the mass media, using the language of hate, encourage a spirit of violence.

One, albeit small, sector of our Church has abandoned ecclesiastical unity and surrendered to the tenets of a materialistic ideology. This sector sows confusion inside and outside Nicaragua through a campaign extolling its own ideas and defaming the legitimate pastors and the faithful who follow them. Censorship of the media makes it impossible to clarify and offer other points of view.

Foreign Interference

Foreign powers take advantage of our situation to en-courage economic and ideological exploitation. They see us as support for their power, without respect for our own persons, our history, our culture, and our right to decide our own destiny.

Consequently, the majority of the Nicaraguan people live in fear of their present and uncertainty of their future. They feel deep frustration, clamor for peace and freedom. Yet their voices are not heard, muted by belligerent propaganda on all sides.

The Root of These Evils

This situation is rooted in the sin of each and every one, in injustice and oppression, in exploitative greed, in political ambition and abuse of power, in disregard for moral and religious values, in lack of respect for human dignity, in forgetting, abandoning, and denying God.


Conversion and Reconciliation

The Church ardently desires and encourages peace and tranquility and believes that there is only one path to that end, conversion. This means that we must all turn our eyes and heart to God, our Father, Who through Christ offers us the path to reconciliation, forgiveness, and peace.

“It is not behavior alone that needs to be changed, but the heart that guides our lives. At the community level it is important to examine ourselves as persons, as groups and social units, not only as victims but also as authors of certain collective deviations from God’s plan, in order to implement together God’s plan for constructive human endeavor.” (cf. Peace and Conversion, a Pontifical document issued by the Commission on Justice and Peace at Rome on September 30, 1983.)

The entire universe is the object of redemption since it also reveals the glory of God and must be sanctified and consecrated to God (cf. Vatican II, Lumen Gentium, No. 34). Christ resurrected is at the center of history and of the world, leading us toward its full maturity and its final liberation from all forces of evil (cf. Vatican II, Lumen Gentium No. 48).

Confession: the Path to Conversion

John Paul II in his address on reform and holiness given at Rome on November 26, 1983, said: “To assist such conversion, the Lord instituted the sacrament of reconciliation. In it Christ Himself goes to meet the man oppressed by the awareness of his own weakness, He raises him and gives him the necessary strength to continue his path. With the sacrament the life of the Resurrected Christ enters the spirit of the believer, bringing forth renewed generosity of purpose and an enhanced capacity to live by the Gospel.”

Jesus reconciled all things, bringing peace through the Cross (Col. 1.20) and transmitted this power to His disciples (cf. John 4.21, 13.34-35; 15.12-17).

Preparing to receive the benefits of the sacrament of confession is an important step in conversion. A sincere examination of our sins, self-criticism of our attitudes and our life, these reveal to us our faults and make us abhor sin which is an offense against God, an affront to the Church, and damage or injury to our neighbor. It encourages us to turn totally to God and to reform our lives, it brings us back to the Church and closer to our brothers.


The road to social peace is possible through dialogue, sincere dialogue that seeks truth and goodness. “That [dialogue] must be a meaningful and generous offer of a meeting of good intentions and not a possible justification for continuing to foment dissension and violence.” (John Paul II, “Greeting to Nicaragua,” March 4, 1983)

It is dishonest to constantly blame internal aggression and violence on foreign aggression.

It is useless to blame the evil past for everything without recognizing the problems of the present.

All Nicaraguans inside and outside the country must participate in this dialogue, regardless of ideology, class, or partisan belief. Furthermore, we think that Nicaraguans who have taken up arms against the Government must also participate in this dialogue. If not, there will be no possibility of a settlement, and our people, especially the poorest among them, will continue to suffer and die.

The dialogue of which we speak is not a tactical truce to strengthen positions for further struggle but a sincere effort to seek appropriate solutions to the anguish, pain, exhaustion, and fatigue of the many, many people who long for peace, the many, many people who want to live, to rise from the ashes, to see the warmth of a smile on a child’s face, far from terror, in a climate of democratic harmony.

The terrible chain of reactions inherent in friend-enemy dialectics is halted by the Word of God, Who demands that we love even our enemies and that we forgive them. He urges us to move from distrust and aggressiveness to respect and harmony, in a climate conducive to true and objective deliberation on our problems and a prudent search for solutions. The solution is reconciliation. (cf. John Paul II, “Peace and Reconciliation.” Address by the Pope in El Salvador, March 6, 1983.)

If we are not open to objective acknowledgement of our situation and the events that distress our people ideologically, politically, and militarily, then we are not prepared, in a true and Christian way, for reconciliation for the sake of the real, living wholeness of our nation.

Considering that freedom of speech is a vital part of the dignity of a human being, and as such is indispensable to the well-being of the nation inasmuch as a country progresses only when there is freedom to generate new ideas, the right to free expression of one’s ideas must be recognized.

The great powers, which are involved in this problem for ideological or economic reasons, must leave the Nicaraguans free from coercion.


If we want our conversion to find true expression in the life of our national community, we must strive to lead lives worthy of the Gospel (cf. Phl. 1.27; Eph. 4.1), reject all lies, all harmful or offensive words, all anger and evil utterance, and be benevolent and forgive generously as God forgave us through Christ (cf. Eph. 4.25-32; Col. 3.12-14).

It behooves us to value each life as a gift of God, help the young to find meaning and value in their lives and prepare themselves for their future roles in society, forgive enemies and adversaries, facilitate the return of those who have left their country and welcome them with an open heart, free those imprisoned for ideological differences, create a climate of friendship and peace conducive to social harmony.

“In the great task of bringing peace and reconciliation to the nation, the family as the basic unit of society cannot be ignored. Nor can respect for its rights.” (cf. Gaudium et Spes, No. 52. Quoted by John Paul II in his address to the bishops of El Salvador, February 24, 1984.)

May the Holy Virgin, who played her part in our redemption with such exemplary fortitude, provide us with the necessary strength to perform our Christian duty of love and peace.

And may the Lord of Peace grant us all, always and in all our endeavors, the peace and tranquility which we seek (cf. 2 Th. 3.16).

Done at Managua, April 22, Easter Sund4, 1984 (to be read and published in the usual manner), Episcopal Conference of Nicaragua.

Pablo A. Vega, Bishop of Juigalpa, President

Bosco Vivas Robelo, Assistant Bishop of Managua, Secretary

Miguel Obando y Bravo, Archbishop of Managua

Leovigildo Lopez Fitoria, Bishop of Granada

Salvator Schlaefer, Bishop of Bluefields

Pedro L. Vilchez, Prelate of Jinotega

Julian Barni, Bishop of Leon

Ruben Lopez Ardon, Bishop of Esteli

Carlos Santi, Bishop of Matagalpa


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