Vatican sends papal nuncio expelled by Nicaragua to Africa

Archbishop Waldemar Stanislaw Sommertag Archbishop Waldemar Stanislaw Sommertag was assigned as apostolic nuncio in Senegal, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, and Mauritania in Africa on Sept. 6, 2022. | Photo credit: César Pérez / Archdiocese of Managua

The Holy See’s Press Office announced Sept. 6 that Archbishop Waldemar Stanislaw Sommertag, the former apostolic nuncio in Nicaragua who was expelled from the country by the Daniel Ortega dictatorship, will be sent to Africa. 

With his new assignment, Sommertag from now on will be the apostolic nuncio in Senegal, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, and Mauritania.

The prelate was expelled from Nicaragua on March 6. On March 9, the Nicaraguan Bishops’ Conference issued a statement confirming his departure to Rome.

Referring to the nuncio’s “accreditation with the Government of Nicaragua,” the country’s bishops noted that “this matter is the exclusive bilateral competence of the Holy See and the Government of Nicaragua, therefore, this Episcopal Conference, out of deference and respect to the procedures of the Holy See, refrains from making a statement on this issue.”

On March 11, the Holy See published a press release after the government of Ortega withdrew its acceptance of Sommertag as the pope’s representative, a position he held in Managua since 2018.

The Holy See explained that it had received “with surprise and pain the communication that the Government of Nicaragua has decided to withdraw its consent” for Sommertag to be the nuncio, “forcing him to leave the country immediately after notifying him of that measure.”

Sommertag was appointed apostolic nuncio to Nicaragua on Feb. 15, 2018, at a time when the country was in a serious social and political crisis that later led to massive anti-government demonstrations. The Ortega government responded by cracking down hard on the demonstrators in several cities, including Managua, the capital. More than 300 people were killed in the repression, according to local human-rights groups.

The nuncio participated as a witness in the second stage of talks between the government and the opposition held in 2019, but without any results. Relations between the government and the Catholic bishops have been tense after the 2018 protests. Ortega has accused the bishops of having been involved in plotting to oust him and has called them “devils in cassocks” and “terrorists.”

Persecution in Nicaragua

The persecution of Catholics by the Nicaraguan dictatorship continues to worsen. In August, the bishop of the Diocese of Matagalpa, Rolando Álvarez, was prevented for days from leaving his chancery and was then abducted in the middle of the night by police and taken to Managua, where he remains under house arrest at a family home.

The group of priests, seminarians, and a layman who were inside the chancery with Álvarez were also blocked from leaving and were abducted that same night and taken to El Chipote, a prison in Managua known for torturing opponents of the regime.

In addition, the dictatorship of Ortega has shut down at least six Catholic radio stations.

Sommertag biography

Sommertag was born on Feb. 6, 1968. He was ordained on May 30, 1993.

He is a doctor of canon law and entered the Vatican’s diplomatic service on June 19, 2000. He has served in Tanzania, Nicaragua, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Israel.

He speaks Polish, Russian, Italian, German, English, and Spanish.

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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