FOUR priests in the Nicaraguan government and the Nicaraguan bishops have reached an agreement allowing the priests to temporarily retain their posts as long as they "abstain in public and private from the exercise of their priestly ministry".
The agreement, announced by the Nicaraguan bishops' conference last week, added that the priests "will not invoke or use their condition as priests to help or justify state or party functions and actions". The bishops stressed the non-partisan role of the priesthood.
The announcement came at the end of three days of meetings between the seven-member bishops' conference and the foul priests involved, Frs Miguel D'Escoto, Fernando Cardenal. Edgar Parrales and Ernestc Cardenal.
The arrangement is expected to ease tensions between thc Sandinista-led government and the hierarchy and wav. accompanied by the establishment of a joint Church' state commission to deal with issues of mutual concern.
However. the bishops warned that the exceptional arrangement "does not satisfy the primary role! of the priesthood, but will be tolerated for the time being". They added that "we earnestly repeat our call for the return of the priests as soon as possible to the full exercise of their ministry. as the HON See wishes and our people need".
The agreement almost certainly sterns from talks held in Rome last month. It is understood that the Vatican exerti-d strong pressure on the Nicaraguan bishops to moderate their stance.
In particular Cardinal Sikestrini, head of the Church's Council for Public Affairs, is said to have argued forcefully that the bishops had been precipitate in ordering the priests to step down and that it had not been intended to provoke a national crisis.
He is believed to have been supported by: Cardinal Eduardo Pironio, of the Congregation for Religious, against opposition from a number of other cardinals and archbishops including Cardinal Baggio of the Congregation for bishops and Archbishop Trujillo, secretary of the Latin American episcopal conferences (CELAM).