Pope Asks Nicaragua to Guarantee Authentic Democracy

Presidential Elections Scheduled for November

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CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, SEPT. 21, 2001 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II today reminded Nicaragua, weeks before its presidential elections, that there can be no authentic democracy without respect for human rights.

Meeting with Nicaraguan bishops, the Pontiff appealed to Catholics in the Central American nation «to choose democratic options that guarantee the Christian concept of man and society, which inescapably implies the fundamental rights of the person in all his aspects.»

The Bishop of Rome also warned Nicaraguans against «any form of totalitarianism, visible or concealed.»

The Pope addressed the bishops in Castel Gandolfo, after concelebrating Mass with them, at the conclusion of their quinquennial «ad limina» visit to the Holy See. The bishops were headed by Cardinal Miguel Obando Bravo of Managua, president of the episcopal conference.

The Nov. 4 presidential election pits former President Daniel Ortega against Enrique Bolanos of the Liberal Constitutional Party. Opinion polls initially predicted victory for Ortega, a Sandinista. But the race is now considered too close to call.

John Paul II visited Nicaragua in 1983 at the height of the Ortega presidency. During a public Mass, Sandinista militants interrupted the Holy Father with cries of «Popular Power!» and «Popular Church!» The international press described their behavior as a «profanation» and «blasphemous provocation.»

In his address today, the Pope mentioned neither the 1983 incident nor the Sandinistas. Supporting the message of the country´s bishops («Jesus Christ Freed Us for Liberty»), the Holy Father invited the Nicaraguan people to exercise their «right and duty to vote, thinking of the good of the nation,» and he recalled that politics is the realm of the laity.

The Pontiff mentioned «the stability of the family» and the fostering of «its spiritual and material progress» as the fundamental priority for the ecclesial community in Nicaragua, in cooperation with public agencies.

«I am not ignorant of the difficulties that the institution of the family experiences also in Nicaragua, especially in regard to the tragedies of divorce and abortion, as well as the existence of unions that are not in keeping with the Creator´s plan for marriage,» he said. «This reality is a challenge that must stimulate the apostolic zeal of pastors and of all those who collaborate with them in this area.»

The Church in Nicaragua is composed of the Archdiocese of Managua, six dioceses and an apostolic vicariate. The country of 5 million inhabitants is 76% Catholic, 15% Protestant.

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