Exiled priest explains why pope did not use strong words about persecution in Nicaragua

nicaragua bishops pilgrimage The faithful in Nicaragua participate in a pilgrimage in support of the bishops, July 28, 2018. | Photo credit: Javier Ruiz / Facebook Archdiocese of Managua

A Nicaraguan priest living in exile in the United States pointed out that although Pope Francis in his Aug. 21 Sunday Angelus did not speak about Nicaragua in the way that some expected him to, if he had used stronger words, the mobs of the dictatorship “would have stormed the churches that same Sunday.”

Father Rafael Bermúdez has been in exile in the United States since 2018, the year the Daniel Ortega regime increased its actions against the Catholic Church in retaliation for the statements that priests and bishops made about the crisis facing the country.

In a statement to Noticias Caracol, the priest answered a question about the words that Pope Francis said about the situation in Nicaragua, where several priests have been arrested and are being held in the notorious El Chipote prison and the bishop of Matagalpa, Rolando Álvarez, is under house arrest.

The pontiff said that he is “closely following, with worry and sorrow, the situation created in Nicaragua, and which involves people and institutions.” He also expressed his wish that “through an open and sincere dialogue they can find the basis for a respectful and peaceful coexistence.”

“It’s complex,” Bermúdez said. “When I say complex, it’s because the feeling of popular opinion is that the pope not only delayed (in saying anything), but also didn’t say what people expected … it’s very complex, because it reminds us that in a certain way there is no concrete relationship” between the Holy See and the dictatorship.

The priest pointed out that in March the Ortega dictatorship expelled the apostolic nuncio, Archbishop Waldemar Stanislaw Sommertag. “From that point on, there is no person officially representing the Holy See,” he said.

Furthermore, Bermúdez explained, “the pope recalled that the means, the mechanism that the Church always uses is dialogue; but here comes the painful part: dialogue is impossible. For what reason? The pope explained: there are no conditions, and what is the main condition, that there be human coexistence.”

The Nicaraguan priest in exile said that in the country “we don’t have coexistence” because “the dictatorship doesn’t allow it.” 

“If they are intolerant, if they subjugate, kill, persecute, imprison, then there are no conditions” for a dialogue, he pointed out.

“If the pope spoke, if he spoke at least as I speak, what would have happened that same day? … What would have happened? Well, all their mobs, all the paramilitaries, possibly would have stormed the churches that same Sunday to attack the population and the physical structures themselves, attack the priests,” he said. 

“I can’t imagine all the things they do,” he said, because with just a signal from the dictatorship “and they act with all the anger and aggression possible," he noted.

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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