Latin America and the Catholic Church

Historically, Nicaragua is one of the regions in Latin America, which has often experienced political upheavals. In 1983, the Catholic Church was at the center of controversy in the politics of the country. Some of the priests who supported the Sandinista government initiated diverse views among the worshippers. While some of them were against the perpetration of inhumane activities especially towards the poor, others (priests) decided to take ministerial positions in the government. Consequently, the pope had to visit Nicaragua to ease the tension in the Catholic Church. The next discussion expounds on the impact of the pope stand during his visit to Nicaragua in 1983.

The Sandinista government was a dictatorial regime in Nicaragua. The liberalists were against (reformist groups in the church) the government. Before, the pope’s visit there was mass killing and among the victims were priests and nuns who were against the government. Therefore, most people anticipated that the pope’s visit to their country would lead to peace. First, the reform-minded Catholics hoped that the pope would support them and oppose the government by asking them to support social justice/human rights in the country. Secondly, they hoped he would condemn the mass killings and persecution of priests/nuns who died while fighting for the poor. The third wish was that the pope would pray for the people who had died while fighting for humanity/peace in their country (Hoyt, 1983, par. 4). Lastly, the perpetrators of the liberal theology anticipated that the pope would either suspend or excommunicate the church leaders who had joined the oppressive government. Sadly, the pope did not commend or give his stand on any of the aforementioned cases, therefore, leaving the people hopeless.

Surprisingly, the pope’s only concern was on the church unity and not the peace or social justice in the region. Intuitively, his stand meant that either all the Catholics should support the government or they should support the poor. Intuitively, he was on the side of the government and not of the poor or the reformists, which left dissatisfaction among his supporters. His decision to ignore the reformists especially those who had died openly meant maybe he was supporting the government. Furthermore, the pope did not give his position on the country’s political affairs, which disappointed most of the Catholics in Nicaragua (Hoyt, 1983, par. 8). As the supreme leader in the Catholic Church, the Nicaraguan Catholics hoped he might not only condemn but also call for political reforms in the region. Unfortunately, none of his speeches or sermon talked about the politics in the region aggravating the political instability or oppression in the country.

Consequently, Nicaraguan Catholics feared that political oppression in the country would rise immediately after the pope’s visit. True to their word, the government imposed more political sanctions, which led to civil wars (Goff et al., 2007, p.200). The government did not only censor the church sermons but also closed down one of the radio stations belonging to the church.

In brief, authentically, the church has to fight for human rights and social justice. However, in Nicaragua, a few priests opted to support a dictatorial regime leading to a division in the church. The speech of the pope did not change the situation in the region but rather exacerbated the tension between the reformist and the government. The main aim of the pope’s visit was to make sure that the Catholics unite regardless of their stand on the political instability in the country.


Goff, R., Moss, W., Terry,J., Upshur, J., & Schroeder, M. (2007). The Twentieth Century and Beyond: A Global History. USA: McGraw hill publishers.

Hoyt, K. (1983). The 1983 visit of the Pope John Paul II to Nicaragua.

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