Jesuit Father Fernando Cardenal, who worked for years to promote education in Nicaragua, died Feb. 20 after complications from an abdominal operation. He was 82.
Father Cardenal, who was expelled from the Jesuits in 1984 for his involvement in Nicaragua’s Sandinista government, was readmitted to the order in 1997. He served as the country’s education minister, 1984-90, under President Daniel Ortega. He remained a priest, although he could not exercise his ministry because he lacked the necessary authorization of a bishop or religious superior.
His funeral was Feb. 21 at Jesuit-run Central American University in Managua.
He was one of four priests – including his older brother, Father Ernesto Cardenal, who accepted Nicaraguan government posts after the 1979 Sandinista revolution. The Sandinista movement, of which he was a part since 1973, had just driven the Somoza dynasty from power and was faced with forming a new government on its own. Nicaragua was bankrupt and its infrastructure partially destroyed.
“It was an exceptional moment … there were so few of us who had any grounding,’’ he told Catholic News Service.