Ortega regime continues attacks on the Church in Nicaragua

nicaragua procession A brief procession of the Virgin of Fatima in the atrium of the Cathedral of Managua, Nicaragua, was held on Saturday, Aug. 13, 2022, to close a Marian congress. A larger procession was scheduled but prohibited by the regime of President Daniel Ortega. | Photo credit: San Judas Tadeo Mga Parish

The leftist regime of President Daniel Ortega continued its persecution of the Catholic Church in Nicaragua with several acts of repression over the weekend.

On Saturday, a large procession with the pilgrim statue of Our Lady of Fatima was to precede the closing Mass at the Managua cathedral for the Marian Congress titled “Mary, Mother of Hope,” but the regime prohibited the event. Instead, a smaller procession was held in the atrium of the cathedral. Thousands were in attendance, many waving Nicaraguan and Vatican flags and crying out, “Mary is from Nicaragua and Nicaragua belongs to Mary!”

In his homily, Cardinal Leopoldo Brenes, the 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 mind and heart of each one of us Nicaraguans.”

A delegation from each diocese in the country was to receive a replica statue of Our Lady of Fatima, but on Sunday, Father Erick Diaz, pastor of St. Joseph the Worker parish, and Father Fernando Calero from Our Lady of Fatima parish, both from the town of El Tuma, were prevented by police from leaving for the cathedral in Managua. 

The pickup truck in which Calero was riding was stopped and searched by the police, who confiscated the registration and insurance documents for the truck as well as the driver’s license.

The same day, Father Oscar Benevidez, pastor of Holy Spirit parish in the town of Mulukukú, was arbitrarily arrested. In a Facebook post, the Diocese of Siuna said that Benevidez’s “sole mission is and has been to announce the Good News of Jesus Christ who is the word of life and salvation for everyone” and prayed for Mary’s intercession.

Meanwhile, since Aug. 4, the regime has not allowed the bishop of Matagalpa, Rolando Álvarez, to leave the chancery, with police officers stationed at the door and around the premises. The prelate remains inside with 10 other people, including priests, seminarians, and laity.

In a press release published Aug. 5, the Nicaraguan national police accused high-ranking authorities of the Catholic Church in Matagalpa — and in particular Álvarez — of “using the communications media and social media” to try to “organize violent groups, inciting them to carry out acts of hatred against the population, creating an atmosphere of anxiety and disorder, disturbing the peace and harmony of the community.”

Such actions have the “purpose of destabilizing the State of Nicaragua and attacking the constitutional authorities,” the press release continued.

The Ortega regime’s police force announced it has already started an investigation “in order to determine the criminal responsibility of the people involved.”

The statement adds that “the people under investigation shall remain in their homes.”

Ortega, who has been in power for 15 years, has been openly hostile to the Catholic Church in the country. He alleged bishops were part of an attempted coup to drive him out of office in 2018 because they supported anti-government demonstrations that his regime brutally suppressed. The Nicarguan president has called the bishops “terrorists” and “devils in cassocks.”

According to a report titled “Nicaragua: A Persecuted Church? (2018–2022),” compiled by attorney Martha Patricia Molina Montenegro, a 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 Managua Cathedral as well as police harassment and persecution of bishops and priests.

On Aug. 6, unidentified vandals stole the main switch to 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 news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

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