The government in Nicaragua, run by long-time dictator Daniel Ortega, continues to crack down on the country’s Catholics.
Ortega has been hostile to the Church for decades, accusing bishops and priests of being agents against his radical socialist regime. He calls them “terrorists” and “devils in cassocks.” The Church in Nicaragua has suffered dozens of attacks over the years, including the exile of priests, arson of churches, and even paramilitary attacks. In June, eighteen sisters, members of the Missionaries of Charity, had their legal status stripped and were escorted across the border to Costa Rica, having been accused of “political subversion and supporting terrorism.”
A report by the Pro-Transparency and Anti-Corruption Observatory, wrote that the government under president/dictator Ortega has “initiated an indiscriminate persecution against bishops, priests, seminarians, religious, lay groups and toward everything that has a direct or indirect relationship with the Catholic Church.”
Nicaraguan Bishop Rolando Jose Alvarez has been kept secluded by armed government forces in a church in Matagalpa since August 4, along with six priests and six lay persons, accused of trying to organize violent groups against the government. Bishop Alvarez has been a regular critic of the socialist government of Nicaragua. Ortega’s crack down on Alvarez, as well as his closing a number of Catholic radio stations, is an attempt to squash any criticism of his regime.
The U.S. State Department, European Union, and the Bishops of the Latin American and Caribbean Episcopal Council (CELAM) have all condemned these persecutions. Unfortunately, and for reasons I can’t speculate on, Pope Francis has remained silent on the Nicaraguan government’s war on the Catholic Church. Agustin Antonetti, director of Latin America Watch, said, “Pope Francis’ silence on what’s going on in Nicaragua is scandalous. Daniel Ortega’s dictatorship is taking the churches by force, they have shut down all their channels and radios, even one priest is in jail, and the rest are afraid of being kidnapped.”
Sixty percent of the Nicaraguan population is Catholic, but Ines San Martin, an Argentine journalist reporting from Rome on the shutting down of Catholic radio stations, has written that “Being a #Catholic in Nicaragua today is basically a crime.”
You can read more about the persecution of the Church in Nicaragua and offer any assistance you are able to at the website for Aid to the Church in Need.
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