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Strife-torn Nicaragua mourns ‘father of peace and reconciliation’

Demonstrators sing the national anthem in front of the Police Station during a protest against the government of President Daniel Ortega (Getty Images)

Once honoured by his native Nicaragua as a “father of peace and reconciliation”, Cardinal Miguel Obando Bravo, retired archbishop of Managua, died on June 3 at the age of 92.

Pope Francis praised the late cardinal in a telegram for being a “devoted pastor” who spent his life serving God and the Church with “generous faith”.

Cardinal Obando was known for defending human rights during both the right-wing dictatorship of the Somoza family and the left-wing Sandinista regime, which seized power in 1979. Many international organisations recognised his “ceaseless pastoral and humanitarian work”, according to Vatican News.

In 2016, Nicaragua’s national assembly declared him “father of peace and reconciliation” because of his dedication calling for an end to the civil war that rocked the nation from 1961 to 1990.

Born on February 2, 1926, in La Libertad, the future cardinal earned degrees in Latin, Greek, mathematics, physics and philosophy. After joining the Salesians of St John Bosco, he also studied theology and psychology.

He was ordained a Salesian priest in 1958 and taught in high schools and seminaries for many years. In 1968, Blessed Pope Paul VI appointed him auxiliary bishop of Matagalpa, where he was particularly dedicated to impoverished peasant farmers.

He was named archbishop of Managua in 1970 and served a number of terms as president of the country’s bishops’ conference. St John Paul II made him a cardinal in 1985 and he retired as Managua’s archbishop in 2005 at the age of 79.

His death leaves the College of Cardinals with 212 members, 115 of whom are under 80 and therefore eligible to vote in a conclave.