It was one of the most famous moments in the early years of John Paul’s papacy when the future saint arrived in Nicaragua for a visit and greeted a kneeling Father Ernesto Cardenal with sharp words and a wagging finger.
Now, with the elderly priest evidently facing the last days of his life, Pope Francis has reportedly lifted a suspension that was imposed by John Paul:
Pope Francis has rehabilitated Father Ernesto Cardenal, a priest-poet that John Paul II suspended “a divinis” some 35 years ago for refusing to quit his cabinet post in Nicaragua’s Sandinista government.
Cardenal, who is now 94 years old and dying, was banned in 1984 from celebrating Mass and administering the sacraments.
Nicaragua’s newly-formed left-wing government had named him Minister of Culture in 1979. It selected his brother, Jesuit Father Fernando Cardenal, to be Minister of Education.
When John Paul II visited Nicaragua in 1983, he publicly wagged his finger and scolded Ernesto Cardenal as the priest knelt to welcome the pope at Managua airport. “You must fix your affairs with the Church,” the Polish pope told him him sternly.
The photo of the incident became emblematic of the now-sainted pope’s crusade against Marxist-inspired politics in Latin America.
John Paul suspended Cardenal “a divinis” a year after visiting Nicaragua.
According to canon law, “clerics are forbidden to assume public offices which entail a participation in the exercise of civil power” (Can. 285 § 3).
Cardenal remained Minister of Culture until 1987, when his ministry was closed for economic reasons.
According to elnuevodiario.com the now rehabilitated priest is in delicate health in a hospital in Managua.
The Spanish newspaper El País said the papal nuncio to Nicaragua, Archbishop Waldemar Sommertag, recently visited Cardenal to inform him of Pope Francis’ decision to lift the canonical sanctions. The paper said Cardenal received the news “conscious, relaxed and with a smile.”
Read the rest. The Vatican has not yet formally confirmed reports of Cardenal’s rehabilitation.