Category Archives: Easter

Message of the Episcopal Conference of Nicaragua to Priests, Religious, Lay Christian Faithful and all People of Good Will

This pastoral letter, a theological reflection on the Easter mystery in the current context in Nicaragua, also has clear political consequences. It was issued by the Nicaraguan Catholic Bishop´s Conference on May 1, 2019

Message of the Episcopal Conference of Nicaragua to Priests, Religious, Lay Christian Faithful and all People of Good Will

[see original Spanish document at https://twitter.com/CENicaragua/status/1123467920892420097/photo/1 ]

“Easter joy: key for reading the current country history”

“In this you will know that you are my disciples: if you love one another”

(John 13:35)

These words of Jesus Christ, that show the path that all those who want to be his disciples should follow, St. John Paul II used to say, are far too accurate to try to minimize their scope. Many things will be necessary for the historical path of the church in our time, but, if charity is missing, everything will be useless (cf. 1 Cor 13:2; cf NMI 42).

Our faith in Jesus Christ dead and resurrected for our salvation does not allow us to remain outside the events of the world, and for us, the cultural, political, economic, family and social situation of the country. Closing oneself selfishly in ones own comfort and, even worse, stoking feelings of hate among brothers and sisters, is not evangelical.

The Second Vatican Council teaches that the Christian message should not separate us from the construction of the world, nor lead us to be unconcerned about the common good; rather it obliges us to undertake all this as an obligation (cf. GS 34).

For this reason we note with pain how the suffering of the Nicaraguan family continues. Political prisoners, lack of respect for constitutional rights, exiles, refugees, people seeking asylum, poverty, unemployment, insecurity, conflict over land and their corresponding consequences for the displacement of families from the west to the Caribbean Coast of the country, invading fertile lands that historically the indigenous peoples have possessed, and those natural reserves like Indio Maíz and Bosawas, show that without the Presence of the God who has placed his tent among us, we do not have a future.

The Easter that we celebrate offers us the key for living the joy of hope, and teaches us how to inspire it in others. Forming and being formed for joy and hope is, without a doubt, an aspiration of all Nicaraguans. This hope is seen darkened by the sin from which Christ has come to free us with his death and resurrection. It is an arduous task to discover the path of easter joy and leading people and communities to produce the fruit of the Spirit which is joy according to the Gospel. The task is very demanding, because it implies taking the focus off oneself and placing the interests of others and the nation over ones own.

Moved by this joy of the hope which is embodied in the Risen One, we exhort all Nicaraguans to build:

  1. A Nicaragua where all of us are capable of achieving a vision of change that would lead to a qualitative transformation.

We are called to build a holistic concept of peace, and in this sense, construct a society where peace is lasting, just and coherent with the interests of all. The peace that flows from the Crucified-Resurrected One that remains in the face of the test of time and is not the object of short term arrangements. It is the peace that our country needs in order to not repeat a history of suffering, death, pain and agony. Only in this way will Nicaragua begin a new history without the burdens nor pacts of the past.

  1. A Nicaragua where the centrality of the human person and their dignity as children of God is assumed.

“…you have not received a spirit of slavery to go back again to fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption as children” (Rm 8:15). This spirit creates the joy of freedom.

The exercise of freedom and the dignity of the human being is prior to the State. A modern and functional, ethical and moral State, has the obligation to protect, respect, promote and defend these rights, that are also prior to any social agreement. The State should be completely and holistically at the service of the human person, so that acts are never carried out that would affect this nucleus of values. It is then an imperative that in a society actions of repression and persecution should not exist, promoting rather a climate of unrestricted freedom and trust.

For this reason every person should be able to exercise their fundamental rights and public freedoms under the protection of the political constitution, laws and international treaties ratified in a sovereign way by Nicaragua. The freedom of people does not allow for timetables, nor conditions or bureaucratic excuses.

  1. A Nicaragua where we respect and strengthen democracy and its institution structure.

The life of the human being has meaning within the framework of democratic values, principles and institutions. We should not forget that respect for democracy should be inspired by the idea of strengthening the institutions and principles that are the basis for the rule of law: the supremacy of the law, division of powers and respect for human rights. This implies that the government structures are not an arbitrary power, nor the opportunity for apportionment of titles, perks and privileges.

We Nicaraguans must work to achieve a politics with ethical principles and at the service of the common good. Easter joy urges us to work for the construction of this historic project in order to steer us to the encounter with God. In this sense, this challenge becomes morally urgent, inescapable, without the delays that over time will be the causes of new and repeated vices. The dynamic of the process requires avoiding impasses that would be fatal for the country.

The independence of the branches of government provide stability in the exercise of power and the defense of the citizens. For no reason can only one branch of the State prevail over the rest.

In the case of the electoral branch it is important that in accordance with established norms, it be revamped in such a way that it be trustworthy and independent, so that a neutral, impartial and nationally and internationally observed electoral process might take place. Otherwise, free elections will not happen. The people are the true sovereign.

In the case of the administration of justice, it must be absolutely independent, impartial, professional and ethically imparted, outside of political, partisan and ideological designs. Without independent justice there is no freedom.

  1. A Nicaragua where the freedom of expression is exercised without restrictions.

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us (cf. John 1:14). Every principle of freedom of expression has its origins in the highest expression of God, who freely showed his love for humanity through the Word incarnate.

The freedom of the press and expression is a fundamental requirement for building a democratic order in Nicaragua, a modern and pluralistic state. Without freedom of expression all the other freedoms wither and end up perishing. It incarnates the power of the people to make pronouncements, denounce, access information and nourish themselves from the infinite exchange of ideas, opinions and positions. Freedom of expression, that sinks its roots in the Word made flesh, is a natural principle for the new order of freedoms and development to which the country aspires, shunning disinformation, slander, defamation and the love of scandals.

  1. A Nicaragua where peace is the fruit of justice.

Love and righteousness meet together; justice and peace kiss each other. Truth springs from the earth, justice looks down from heaven” (Psalm 85:11-12). For the Psalmist justice is like the rain that sprinkles the earth, and the fruit that emerges from it is truth. Truth will always be the path of justice.

In this moment of crisis we Nicaraguans are called to establish agreements on matters of justice that are lasting and respected, in such a way that we support every initiative of dialogue that is done with good will, and particularly the effort that the Holy See has been doing through the different messages that Pope Francis has sent us, and the presence of the Nuncio as International Witness and Accompanier. These agreements have to be laden with a profound ethical and moral sense, capable of revealing the story of the tragedy and pain of the victims. We must not forget that truth and justice kiss one another. This is the certainty that should guide our searches for new horizons in Nicaragua, which demand contemplating the truth about the facts, no impunity for the guilty, reparation and reinsertion of the victims and their families, as well as guarantees of no repetition. It is the only thing that can provide true security to the citizens. Only in this way can a country be morally constructed.

The exhortation of joy happens in the heart of a dramatic existence of Nicaragua which is experiencing a crucial moment in which it will have to define the bases of its future as a country, and its destiny as a nation. Rejoicing in the Lord or being joyful in the Lord entails a way of situating oneself in life, in the drama of existence. This has to be a constant of Christian character. Joy has to be the fruit of being rooted in Christ, in the dynamic of his humiliation and glorification. Because in spite of the contrary signs that we are experiencing, the Lord is at the door, close and active. It is not a matter of looking for routes of evasion in the face of the current situation, but addressing them from communion with Christ. In the same way that the resurrection is rooted in the night of the cross, so the energy and joy of the Christian will spring from communion with the sufferings of the Lord.

Let the Queen of Heaven, who rejoiced with the resurrection of her Son, while participating in his painful passion, intercede for us and make us participants in her joy.

Issued in the Offices of the Episcopal Conference of Nicaragua, May 1, 2019 on the feast of St Joseph the Worker.

SEAL OF THE EPISCOPAL CONFERENCE

SIGNATURES:

Cardinal Leopoldo José Brenes Solórzano, Metropolitan Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Managua, President

Mons. Pablo Schmitz, OFM Cap., Bishop of the Diocese of Bluefields, Vice President

Mons. Juan Abelardo Mata Guevara, Bishop of the Diocese of Estelí, Secretary General

Mons. Roland José Álvarez Lagos, Bishop of the Diocese of Matagalpa, General Treasurer

Mons. Bosco Vivas Robelo, Bishop of the Diocese of León

Mons. David Zywiec Sidor OFM Cap., Bishop of the Diocese of Siuna

Mons. Sócrates René Sándigo Jirón, Bishop of the Diocese of Juigalpa

Mons. Jorge Solórzano Pérez, Bishop of the Diocese of Granada

Mons. Carlos Enrique Herrera Gutiérrez, Bishop of Jinotega

 

 

 

Chicken Feed

This Easter has been a sweet deal for candy manufacturers: more than $2 billion was spent on candy alone this season, and the overall spending on all Easter-related purchases figures to be the second-highest in U.S. history.  (I know that I didn’t receive any chocolate bunnies on Easter Sunday, so somebody else has been taking more than their share. ) But it started me thinking about wants and needs and central Easter messages.

That candy cost isn’t exactly chicken feed.  By comparison, the total amount of all U.S. aid to Nicaragua in 2017 was $31.3 million, 15% of all that candy.  I only offer the comparison here for contrast; neither I nor most Nicaraguans would argue for greater aid dependency on the U.S.  But it’s quite a difference in sums when one considers the two categories: resources for basic human living standards in Nica versus Easter candy consumption in the U.S.   Setting aside such notions as national boundaries, something seems inequitable in all of that, no matter to what political or economic perspective one may subscribe.  Let me elaborate.

I spent a week with my colleague Mark in Nicaragua last month, visiting with rural partners, hearing about their struggles with various harvests, understanding the need for late repayments in several cases, and attending a two-day workshop designed to teach information analysis, so that these producers might go about their work on a more data-driven basis.

Our week did not represent some kind of hight-level financial development.  We lunched with them on rice and beans.  We spoke with some, in impromptu huddles, about small loans and the most basic tenets of our partnerships: accompaniment, transparency, functioning bodies of governance, broad-based participation, and collaboration within the coops.  We described the nature of goals and goal-setting.  They asked us about work processes.  We laughed some.  The interactions may have been at their most basic level, but they were important and appreciated.  Basic stuff usually is.

What does any of that have to do with Easter candy sales?  Simply this: the sweet taste in the mouth from a dissolving Peep or jelly bean is both artificial and temporary.  And it can never take away the bad taste in the mouth from the recognition that we spend more on candy than on the very lives of others who are in significant need for their basic survival.  That bad taste comes from recognition that our own lives are made up of moments, moments of priority and precedence, wherein we have the free will to decide how we will spend our time and our money and our spirit.  Those decisions impact the impoverished in profound ways, and as importantly, paint the portrait of who we truly are.   And they do leave a taste in the mouth, one kind or another.

Last month in Nicaragua I heard the observation of a producer who was considering the raising of a few chickens as a supplement to his coffee-growing efforts.  His words of hesitation were like a fist to the gut.  “The corn that my hens eat,” he observed, “could be food for my family.”  He was not speaking about candy corn.

Easter is a season of resurrection and salvation, of new beginnings and new chances.  It is a time of reflection for many about the life and example of Jesus and the basis of those who claim followership of his teaching.  It also gives me pause to think about the price of candy and the value of corn….