Nicaraguan priest Ernesto Cardenal, a pillar of liberation theology, said Monday he was "very happy" about the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI, who opposed the left-leaning Latin American movement.
"I don't know why he is resigning, but I am very happy that he is leaving the papacy," the 88-year-old poet-priest told AFP after the 85-year-old pope's surprise announcement that he would step down on February 28 due to his old age.
Cardenal, who supported the 1979 revolution that ousted dictator Anastasio Somoza and became culture minister under Sandinista President Daniel Ortega in 1980, has criticized the papacies of Benedict and his predecessor John Paul II as a "step backward" for the Church.
Pope John Paul II famously reprimanded Cardenal during a visit to Nicaragua in 1983, shaking his finger in disapproval as the priest knelt before him.
As the Vatican's doctrinal enforcer under John Paul, the future Pope Benedict XVI, then known as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, spearheaded the opposition to liberation theology, a movement with Marxist overtones that swept Latin America in the 1970s.
The movement focuses on Christ as the liberator of the oppressed and emphasizes the Christian mission of bringing justice to the poor and oppressed, particularly through political activism.