Nicaraguan former guerrilla acknowledges errors of the past and asks Church for forgiveness

.- In an historical move, the ex-president of Nicaragua, Daniel Ortega (1979-90), who led the Sandinista movement, has asked forgiveness for the abuses the Sandinista revolution committed against the bishops of the Catholic Church.

“We were wrong, we made a lot of mistakes and we mistreated officials of the Church who were so well respected,” said Ortega in a speech delivered in the city of Jinotepe.

The ceremony marking the 25th anniversary of the revolution was led by Bishop Bismark Carballo, one of the bishops who was humiliated by the Sandinista regime by being exposed naked on television.

“We mistreated such respected persons as Bishop Carballo, who we publicly ask for forgiveness, that there may be no doubt concerning our sincere acceptance of these mistakes,” Ortega said.

An emotional Carballo accepted the apology of the Sandinista leader and offered him a warm handshake as a sign of reconciliation.

“Since the celebration of the Jubilee, we have offered forgiveness, and perhaps today has been a public opportunity to shake hands without any bitterness and with the sincere desire of building a new Nicaragua,” the bishop said.

He acknowledged that there are still scars that are not easily forgotten, “but right now what is most important is that there is forgiveness, and that overcomes anything else.”

Opposition parties have accused Ortega and his party of reaching out to the Church as a political strategy to gain support for local elections in November and presidential elections in 2006, in which Ortega will be a candidate for the fourth time.

“It is difficult to know the intentions of one’s heart, but what is important is that we work for reconciliation in Nicaragua,” said Bishop Carballo.

The reconciliation between the Sandinista party and the Church was made evident recently when Cardinal Miguel Obando y Bravo, a fervent critic of the government of the 1980’s, announced he would celebrate a Mass during the celebration of the 25th anniversary of the Sandinista rise to power.

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