The Catholic Church is hoping to improve its frosty relationship with Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, now that Ortega has begun a third term of office.
Bishop Jorge Solórzano of the Diocese of Granada said last week that the church has communicated with the Ortega administration through intermediaries but has not had direct contact, according to a report from the Latin America and Caribbean Communication Agency (ALC).
The church has been pressuring the government to tackle issues including unemployment, public safety and access to health care and education. Also, a week after the balloting in November in which Ortega won re-election in a landslide, the Roman Catholic Council of Bishops cast doubts on the integrity of the election process, criticising the "lack of transparency and honesty with which the elections were administered," and accusing the Supreme Electoral Council of "not being capable of performing their function with responsibility and honesty," according to The Nicaragua Dispatch.
Nicaraguan bishops did not attend Ortega's swearing-in ceremony on 10 January. They were invited, but church officials say the e-mail invitations arrived only five days before the event, too late to rearrange the bishops' schedules, the ALC reported.
Some Catholic clergy are also publically sceptical of Ortega's professed new-found faith, to which he often alluded on the campaign trail. Ortega told the Associated Press he found his Christian faith in 2005, when he married his current wife, Rosario Murillo, in a Catholic ceremony.
Fr Ernesto Cardenal, a priest and poet who supported the Sandinistas in the 1980s, said Ortega's claims were "one more of his charades." Ortega "makes a false and hypocritical use of religion, pretending he has a faith he doesn’t have," Cardenal told the AP.
The ALC reported Solórzano admitted good relationships have been built through intermediaries, but the desired direct dialogue with the government has not taken place. He recognised the efforts on the part of the government, yet added that "they have not been sufficient to satisfy the people who hope for a more dignified life, both as human beings and as Christians."
[With acknowledgements to ENInews. ENInews, formerly Ecumenical News International, is jointly sponsored by the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, the World Communion of Reformed Churches and the Conference of European Churches.]