Leopoldo José Brenes Solorzano. Archbishop of Managua.

Leopoldo José Brenes Solorzano. Archbishop of Managua.

Leopoldo José Brenes Solorzano, the new cardinal from Managua, Nicar­agua, had no idea he was going to be among the Latin American Pope’s first batch of cardinals. When he arrived at the city’s cathedral on the day of the news, the white-haired prelate was greeted by a crowd of journalists and cameramen who had been waiting for him there since dawn. He talked to them about the Pope’s “special methodology.”

“The Nunciature usually informed candidates of their nomination a few days in advance, so they were not taken by surprise,” he said. “But I think many of us at the Nunciature were shocked because we hadn’t been told anything beforehand.”

But he already has a cardinal’s cassock, anyway. It’s hanging in his closet with plenty of mothballs to protect it from Central America’s woodworm. This little detail was revealed by the archbishop’s 80-year-old mother, Lilliam Solórzano Aguirre, as she showed me a picture of “Leopoldito,” as she affectionately calls her first-born son. She finally gave birth to him after six miscarriages which were put down to natural causes “like the fright I got when she saw an iguana suddenly appear out of nowhere.”

Doña Lilliam is all smiles as she tells me this, rocking placidly back and forth on a rocking chair, in her humble abode in Managua.

Doña Lilliam is happy, but the news has not gone to her head. “This is a moment of joy… a special and happy moment.” But neither she nor other members of the family brag about her son’s nomination. He is the third Central American to be created cardinal, after the Honduran archbishop Oscar Andrés Rodríguez Maradiaga and the Archbishop Emeritus of Managua, Miguel Obando y Bravo.

It was Obando who gave Brenes the red cardinal’s cassock he wore when he was created cardinal by John Paul II in the May 1985 consistory. “There you go, take it, in case they name you cardinal one day,” the then-Archbishop of Managua said to the then-Msgr. Leopoldo Brenes.

And now his elderly mother confirms that “Leopoldito’s” cassock is still in his closet and adds she has taken “special care of it.”

Archbishop Brenes Solórzano is beloved in his country because of his concern for the poor. Three years ago, in an interview with the newspaper La Prensa in which he also appealed to Nicaragua’s president, Daniel Ortega, to respect the country’s Constitution and not to stand as a candidate in the presidential and legislative elections scheduled for November 2011, he made this clear.

“Christmas is an opportunity to convert our hearts in order to have the intentions of Christ, but we can also show that we are one people, one nation, that we can put aside personal interests and seek the good of all,” he said. “The important thing is to have a job, because a large number of people no longer have a job, both in the state and private sectors. I think that both the government and the private sector should endeavor to stabilize the situation, so that if there is no possibility of a pay raise, you can keep your job, because we know that if a parent does not work, this means that there are six people who go without food.”

—Alver Metalli

Facebook Comments