Pope Francis reinstates priest after a 29 year suspension

Pope Francis has reinstated Father Miguel D’Escoto 29 years after he was suspended from his duties for his involvement in Nicaragua’s revolutionary government in the 1970s, Catholic News Service reported earlier today. The priest sent a request to the Vatican asking for permission to resume his priesthood, writing that he wanted the chance to celebrate Mass “before dying.” Cardinal Fernando Filoni signed the letter lifting his suspension.

The Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers, a Catholic missionary organization of which D’Escoto is a part of, said about the letter that:

“The Holy Father has given his benevolent assent that Father Miguel D’Escoto Brockmann be absolved from the canonical censure inflicted upon him, and entrusts him to the superior general of the institute for the purpose of accompanying him in the process of reintegration into the ministerial priesthood.”

D’Escoto reached considerable status in the church before becoming involved in Nicaraguan politics, which ran counter to the church ban on priests holding government positions and eventually led to his suspension in 1985. After his ordination back in 1961, D’Escoto founded Orbis Books, which is Maryknoll’s theological publishing division, and had also been an official with the World Council of Churches, representing the Catholic Church.

He served as the Republic of Nicaragua’s Minister for Foreign Affairs for more than a decade and is now the Senior Adviser on Foreign Affairs under President Daniel Ortega Saavedra. He is still a member of the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN), which has roots in Communist ideology.

In an interview with America Magazine in 1985, D’Escoto commented on the escalation of revolutionary attitudes in Nicaragua:

“If you tell me that there is a revolution somewhere and the church is against it, I will say, “What else is new?” I mean, what would be newsworthy is to tell me that the church is for it. So in Nicaragua the new thing is, and the question is: How come so much of the church is in favor of it [the revolution]? How come so many of the priests, even of the bishops?”

Pope Francis lived through a dictatorship in the 1970s in Argentina, but his role in the political arena was less defined than D’Escoto’s was in Nicaragua. Instead of joining a political movement, he worked from behind the scenes to provide shelter for people at risk of persecution.