Ortega to See Nicaragua's Church Leader

Associated Press

President Daniel Ortega and Cardinal Miguel Obando y Bravo will meet this weekend in an effort to repair the strained relations between the leftist Sandinista government and the Roman Catholic Church.

The government's announcement of the meeting was confirmed Wednesday by Msgr. Palo Giglio, the Vatican representative who helped establish the agenda.

Giglio would not discuss details of the talks other than to confirm that they will be held Saturday. He and Bishops Bosco Vivas and Carlos Santi held negotiations on setting an agenda with Rene Nunez, minister to the Nicaraguan president, and Justice Minister Rodrigo Reyes.

Talks between the church and state on their strained relations have been held intermittently, and only rarely at the top level.

The talks are not likely to bring about a quick reconciliation of attitudes. Obando, with the apparent support of Pope John Paul II, has been a critic of the Sandinistas since they came to power in July, 1979. He argues that the government is trying to install a Cuban-like totalitarian system and accuses it of human rights violations.

The government has accused the cardinal of being a counterrevolutionary, has expelled 16 Roman Catholic priests and has closed the diocese's radio station.

In June the government expelled Msgr. Juan Antonio Vega, bishop of Juigalpa and former president of the Bishops' Conference, and refused to allow Father Bismarck Carballo, the church's spokesman here, to return to Nicaragua.

Vega was accused of meeting in the United States with leaders of rebel groups and others who backed the approval of $100 million in aid to anti-Sandinista rebels called contras.

The bishop's return is one of the main points on the church's agenda for discussion, along with the reopening of the Catholic radio station.

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