By NICOLE WINFIELD
VATICAN CITY - Pope Francis has reinstated a Nicaraguan priest suspended by the Vatican in the 1980s for participating in Nicaragua's leftist Sandinista government.
The 81-year-old Rev. Miguel D'Escoto Brockmann, Nicaragua's foreign minister from 1979-90, recently wrote to Francis asking to be allowed to celebrate Mass again before he died. The Vatican said last week that Francis had agreed and asked D'Escoto's superior in the Maryknoll order to help reintroduce him into priestly ministry.
The Vatican suspended D'Escoto and three other dissident priests in 1985 for defying a church ban on clergy holding government jobs. The sanction was a reflection of St. John Paul II's broader crackdown on liberation theology in Latin America.
The Sandinistas, who supported the "popular church" of liberation theology, overthrew the pro-American regime of Anastasio Somoza in 1979.
Francis, who was a young Jesuit provincial in Argentina at the time, shared John Paul's opposition to the perceived Marxist excesses of liberation theology. But as pope, he has also called for a more merciful church and has indicated that another symbol of liberation theology, slain Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero, will soon be beatified.
D'Escoto was ordained a priest in 1961 and remained a member of the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers religious order throughout the 29-year suspension. He simply couldn't exercise his priestly duties.
The Maryknolls are known for their missionary work around the globe.
From 2008-09, D'Escoto served as president of the United Nations General Assembly.