Nicaraguan dictatorship trying to totally eradicate the faith, lawyer charges

Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo Nicaraguan Vice President Rosario Murillo (left) and her husband, Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega | Credit: Inti Ocon/AFP via Getty Images

With Holy Week just a few days away, Catholics in Nicaragua are preparing for religious celebrations in the midst of ongoing persecution of the faith by the dictatorship of President Daniel Ortega and his wife, Vice President Rosario Murillo.

For Martha Patricia Molina, a Nicaraguan lawyer and author of the Spanish-language report “Nicaragua: A Persecuted Church?”, the regime “wants to completely eradicate the faith of the Catholic people in order to eliminate the Church.”

In a March 18 Facebook post, Molina reported that for Holy Week 2024, approximately 4,800 outdoor processions have been prohibited throughout the country (this figure includes processions on the four Fridays of Lent). Outdoor processions are a prominent and integral part of Hispanic Catholic piety.

Instead of outdoor processions, all the cathedrals of the dioceses in Nicaragua are holding processions inside, as is also the case for most parishes and chapels in the country. 

Speaking March 19 with ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner, Molina said that “the regime persecutes the Catholic Church just for speaking the truth in the light of the Gospel and pointing out all the violations of human rights committed by the dictators.”

“Nicaragua is a country very given, as a Catholic people, to popular piety,” she added. Various town officials, the lawyer noted, are calling for religious activities for Holy Week without the authorization or participation from the Catholic Church. However, this is a way of placating the people while at the same time marginalizing the Church.

Molina pointed out that in Nicaragua the mere fact of publicly expressing faith puts citizens in serious danger of being detained by the police. No one is safe, neither the clergy nor the laity. The priests are under constant surveillance by the intelligence apparatus of the Ortega regime.

“The persecution and intimidation of priests has not changed. On the contrary, it increases more every day,” Molina said, noting that many have received death threats for daring to speak out against injustices.

The researcher stressed that the Ortega-Murillo regime does not offer any option to men and women religious for freedom of expression and that if anyone dares to raise their voice they are arrested almost immediately.

“Some processions have been allowed around the block where the church is, but at the last minute a National Police officer shows up and gives a counter-order so the people can’t come out (of the church for the procession), under threat of being imprisoned,” Molina reported on Facebook.

According to the lawyer, the faith of the people has been the fundamental pillar to keep the Church of Nicaragua still standing, along with their deep Marian devotion and their love for prayer.

Despite the repression and persecution, Molina noted there has not been a decrease in the participation of the faithful in religious celebrations. “They have not turned their backs on their shepherds,” she concluded.

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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