Bianca Jagger implores Pope Francis to aid persecuted Catholic Church in Nicaragua

Daniel Ortega celebrates his re inauguration as president of Nicaragua Jan 10 2012 Credit Cancillera del Ecuador via Flickr CC BY SA 20 CNA Daniel Ortega celebrates his re-inauguration as president of Nicaragua, Jan. 10, 2012. | Cancilleria del Ecuador via Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0).

Human rights activist Bianca Jagger is raising awareness of the Nicaraguan regime’s oppression of the Catholic Church, calling on Pope Francis to condemn the government’s targeted attacks on the faithful. 

In a statement earlier this week, Jagger said she was “deeply saddened and concerned … by the silence of the Holy Father.”

In an interview with Crux, Jagger – who is Nicaraguan herself – stated that the Catholic Church is one of the last targets standing in the breach against Nicaraguan president Daniel Ortega and his wife and vice president, Rosario Murillo.

Ortega has been president of Nicaragua since 2007, and oversaw the abolition of presidential term limits in 2014. 

He was a leader in the Sandinista National Liberation Front, which had ousted the Somoza dictatorship in 1979 and fought US-backed right-wing counterrevolutionaries during the 1980s. Ortega was also leader of Nicaragua from 1979 to 1990.

Nicaraguan attacks against Catholics intensify

According to Jagger, the Ortega regime – which has long oppressed Nicaraguan citizens, civil organizations and media – is now turning its focus to attacking the Church. 

Now that the regime has silenced independent journalists, political opposition, and human rights activists, they “understand that the great leaders of the country are members of the Catholic Church: the bishops, the priests, the religious sisters and the laity,” Jagger said. 

In a recent attack, the government arrested Bishop Rolando Álvarez of Matagalpa Aug. 4, along with several priests, seminarians, and laypeople following the banning of an Our Lady of Fatima procession by Nicaraguan police. Álvarez remains under house arrest, an effort to “declare war against the Catholic Church,” according to Jagger.

Ortega also expelled the Missionaries of Charity from the country in July.

Pope Francis has not spoken out 

When asked by Crux about Pope Francis’ silence, Jagger stated, “I am deeply saddened and concerned, surprised, by the silence of the Holy Father.”

Jagger has publicly appealed to Pope Francis to address the unfolding situation in Nicaragua.

“I am appealing to him not to order Bishop Rolando Alvarez to leave the country,” she said, urging that “Getting rid of all the bishops and priests who stand up, who have the courage to stand up, is not the answer. The answer is to intercede, and speak up against the man who has declared a war against the Catholic Church.”

Bishop Silvio José Báez Ortega, an auxiliary bishop of Managua, has been living in exile since 2019 at the pope's request.

The Vatican did not immediately respond to CNA’s request for comment.

The far-left Ortega regime has been accused of corruption, voter fraud, imprisoning critical dissenters and journalists, and committing violent human rights abuses against the people of Nicaragua. 

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Both the current and former U.S. presidents have condemned Ortega for these acts. The Trump administration first imposed sanctions against the regime in 2018. President Biden signed the bi-partisan RENANCER Act, which extended sanctions, and called the 2021 re-election of Ortega a “sham.”

Jagger’s activism and faith

Bianca Jagger is a human rights activist, former actress, and ex-wife of Mick Jagger, the lead singer of The Rolling Stones, whom she married in a Catholic ceremony in 1971. The couple divorced in 1978, but Jagger continues to practice the faith.

“Once a Catholic, always a Catholic…Religion is a very important aspect of my life,” she said in a 2008 interview with High Profiles.

Her past activism has included lobbying for wider celebration of the Latin Mass (TLM) in England.

The Bianca Jagger Foundation did not immediately respond to CNA’s request for comment.

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