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Pope to Meet Ortega for 1st Time Since Vatican-Managua Ties Chilled in '83

January 26, 1988|From Reuters

VATICAN CITY — Pope John Paul II will receive Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega on Friday in what appears to be a major step toward improving relations between the Vatican and Managua's leftist government after years of tension.

The meeting, announced by the Vatican on Monday, will be the first between the Pope and Ortega since March 4, 1983, when supporters of Nicaragua's ruling Sandinista party outraged the pontiff by shouting political slogans as he celebrated Mass in Managua.

The Nicaraguan Embassy to the Vatican said Ortega will be in Rome from Jan. 28 to Jan. 31. He is to arrive there from Spain, where he is to hold talks with Prime Minister Felipe Gonzalez and King Juan Carlos I about Central America.

Relations between the Vatican and Managua have been severely strained by a number of disputes, including priests holding government posts in defiance of the Vatican and the expulsion of a leading bishop in 1986.

There have been signs of improvement since Managua agreed to enact political reforms as part of Costa Rican President Oscar Arias Sanchez's peace plan for the region.

Nora Habed Sarra, first secretary at the Nicaraguan Embassy to the Vatican, said, "The Vatican has always been a great moral authority and has always carried out a role of dialogue for peace, and we expect the Vatican to continue along this path."

Roman Catholic Cardinal Miguel Obando y Bravo of Managua, one of the strongest critics of the government, is to be in Italy at the same time as Ortega for celebrations of the founding of the Salesian order of priests. It was not clear whether he would meet with the Pope or the Nicaraguan leader.

Obando has been acting as a mediator between the Sandinistas and the U.S.-backed Contras.

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