(posted Jan. 12, 8:50 a.m.) – Nicaraguan Catholics today are celebrating the unexpected announcement that Monseñor Leopoldo José Brenes, archbishop of Managua, has been named cardinal by Pope Francis. The announcement was made this morning in St. Peter’s Square in Vatican City.

Brenes, who has been critical of the abuses of power committed by the Ortega administration, is only the second Nicaraguan to be named cardinal. The first was his predecessor, Miguel Obando y Bravo, who, in his retirement from the church, has played an important political/spiritual role in backing the Ortega government as the so-called “Cardinal of Reconciliation and Peace.”

The Catholic Church in Nicaragua has been divided between the Conference of Bishops, which is critical of the government, and a handful of priests who are unquestioningly loyal to the Sandinista administration. Brenes, more often than not, has been among the members of clergy who are critical of the government’s abuses of power.

Brenes, one of 19 bishops to be named cardinal today –– and one of four in Latin America ––, will also become a “cardinal elector,” meaning he would be eligible to enter conclave to choose a successor to Pope Francis.

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