Nicaragua’s Ortega administration continues to attack the Church
Denver Newsroom, Aug. 15, 2022 / 1:58 p.m. (CNA).
President Daniel Ortega’s leftist regime continued its persecution of the Catholic Church in Nicaragua with several acts of repression over the weekend.
On Saturday, a grand procession with the pilgrim statue of Our Lady of Fatima was to precede the closing mass at Managua Cathedral for the Marian Congress titled “Mary, Mother of Hope”, but the regime banned the event. Instead, a small procession took place in the atrium of the cathedral. Thousands of people attended, many waving Nicaraguan and Vatican flags and shouting, “Mary is from Nicaragua and Nicaragua belongs to Mary!”
In his homily, Cardinal Leopoldo Brenes, Archbishop of Managua, the country’s capital, stressed that “nothing and no one can take away our love for the Virgin of Fatima because her image is engraved in the minds and hearts of everyone. from us Nicaraguans.”
A delegation from each diocese in the country was to receive a replica of the statue of Our Lady of Fatima, but on Sunday, Father Erick Diaz, parish priest of Saint-Joseph Ouvrier parish, and Father Fernando Calero of Notre-Dame de Fatima, both from the city of El Tuma, were prevented by the police from going to the cathedral in Managua.
The van Calero was in was stopped and searched by police, who confiscated the truck’s registration and insurance documents as well as the driver’s license.
On the same day, Father Oscar Benevidez, parish priest of the Holy Spirit parish in the city of Mulukukú, was arbitrarily arrested. In a Facebook post, the Diocese of Siuna said Benevidez’s “unique mission is and has been to announce the Good News of Jesus Christ who is the word of life and salvation for all” and prayed for the intercession of Mary.
Meanwhile, since August 4, the regime has not allowed the bishop of Matagalpa, Rolando Álvarez, to leave the chancellery, with police stationed at the door and around the premises. The prelate remains inside with 10 other people, including priests, seminarians and lay people.
In a press release published on August 5, the Nicaraguan National Police accused the high authorities of the Catholic Church of Matagalpa – and in particular Álvarez – of having “used the means of communication and social networks” to try “to ‘organize violent groups, inciting them to commit acts of hatred against the population, creating an atmosphere of anxiety and disorder, disturbing the peace and harmony of the community’.
Such actions are “intended to destabilize the State of Nicaragua and attack the constitutional authorities,” the press release continued.
The Ortega regime’s police have announced that they have already opened an investigation “to determine the criminal responsibility of those involved”.
The statement added that “those under investigation should stay at home.”
Ortega, in power for 15 years, is openly hostile to the Catholic Church in the country. He alleged the bishops were part of a coup attempt to oust him from office in 2018 because they supported anti-government protests his regime brutally suppressed. President Nicaragua called the bishops “terrorists” and “devils in cassocks”.
According to a report titled “Nicaragua: A Persecuted Church? (2018-2022)”, compiled by lawyer Martha Patricia Molina Montenegro, member of the Pro-Transparency and Anti-Corruption Observatory, in less than four years the Catholic Church in Nicaragua has been the target of 190 attacks and desecrations, including a fire in the cathedral of Managua as well as police harassment and the persecution of bishops and priests.
On August 6, unidentified vandals stole the main switch for the cathedral’s electrical control system, leaving the cathedral and surrounding grounds without power.
This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish language press partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.