Other victims of the persecution have been the apostolic nuncio to Nicaragua, Archbishop Waldemar Stanislaw Sommertag, who was expelled from the country in March, and the Missionaries of Charity, the congregation founded by St. Teresa of Calcutta, who were expelled in July.
The former auxiliary bishop of Managua, Silvio Baez, has been living in exile in the United States after it became known that Ortega’s government had very probably ordered his assassination.
The persecution of the Catholic Church in Nicaragua has been increasing for years. The bishops accurately warned of the dictatorial drift of the Ortega government as early as 2014. The bishops have decried the indiscriminate use of force by the regime in cracking down on the opposition, beginning in 2018 when it brutally repressed protesters demanding change.
More than 350 people died and thousands were injured in Nicaragua as “combined forces” of regular police, riot police, paramilitaries, and pro-government vigilantes attacked anti-government protests. At least eight churches were desecrated during the turmoil.
Because the Catholic Church supported the demonstrators’ cause, the government ramped up the pressure on bishops, priests, religious, and lay faithful.
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 Nicaraguan 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 fewer 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.
This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.