Claims grow in Nicaragua for the “scandalous silence” of Pope Francis in the face of the relentless persecution of Daniel Ortega against the Catholic Church

For more than four years, Pope Francis has avoided commenting on a crisis that has left more than 350 murdered and more than a thousand political prisoners in Nicaragua.  (Reuters Photo)
For more than four years, Pope Francis has avoided commenting on a crisis that has left more than 350 murdered and more than a thousand political prisoners in Nicaragua. (Reuters Photo)

As in Daniel Ortega’s regime repression against the Catholic Church in Nicaragua intensifiesthe silence of Pope Francis becomes more evident and the voices that demand that he take a position in the socio-political crisis that has afflicted the Central American country for four years are multiplying.

This Monday, the Ortega regime ordered the closure of seven Catholic stations in the diocese of the northern department of Matagalpa, and police forces raided the Niño Jesús de Praga chapel, in the city of Sébaco, with the intention of seizing the radio equipment. the Catholic radio that worked there.

At the call of the priest Uriel Vallejos, parish priest of Sébaco, dozens of parishioners went to protect the church and were violently repressed by the Police, that throughout that night he executed a hunt against young Catholics. Some 20 people would have been captured, reported national media. Father Vallejos took refuge in the parsonage since the afternoon of that Monday and until the closing of this article he remained besieged by riot agents from the Directorate of Special Police Operations (DOEP).

Police officers violently entered the Infant Jesus of Prague chapel, in the city of Sébaco.  (Photo social networks)
Police officers violently entered the Infant Jesus of Prague chapel, in the city of Sébaco. (Photo social networks)

This would be the last of the long list of aggressions that the Daniel Ortega regime maintains against the Catholic Church of Nicaragua. Nicaraguan researcher Marta Molina has documented more than 250 attacks on the Catholic Church in the last four years.

There are many voices that claim the silence of Pope Francis.

“Pope Francis has remained inexplicably silent lately about the brutal repression of the Nicaraguan regime against Catholic priests and the death of at least 322 people in the anti-government protests of the last four months. His behavior can be described, in one word: shameful! ”, Claimed early, in September 2018, the Argentine journalist Andrés Oppenheimer.

At that time, Ortega began his offensive against the Catholic Church, a few months after entrusting it with the organization and guarantee of a dialogue between the opposition and the regime. Nicaragua was then paralyzed by protests calling for the dictator’s resignation.

After the failure of two rounds of talks, both Ortega and his wife, Rosario Murillo, they blamed the religious for what they described as an “attempted coup”mainly due to the support and refuge that the temples offered to the young people who were persecuted during the military operation that was carried out to dismantle the protests.

Physical attacks on priests, desecration of temples and religious images, siege, death threats, persecution and insults, armed attacks and burning, are part of the repertoire exposed by the researcher Molina. Several priests, including the auxiliary bishop of Managua, Monsignor Silvio Báez, went into exile to protect their lives and freedom.

In July 2020, the image of the Blood of Christ in the Metropolitan Cathedral of Managua suffered an attack that burned its sanctuary.  (Photo courtesy The Press)
In July 2020, the image of the Blood of Christ in the Metropolitan Cathedral of Managua suffered an attack that burned its sanctuary. (Photo courtesy The Press)

The Ortega regime expelled from the country in March of this year the pope’s representative in Nicaragua, Monsignor Waldemar Stanislaw Sommertag, and keeps two priests in jail on charges of common crimes.

I do not understand how Pope Francis can remain silent in the face of the attacks on the most beloved priests of Nicaraguans, how it is possible that he does not see a person of the highest power who, daily, uses the name of God in vain and preaches love while sow hate”, said the Nicaraguan writer on Twitter Gioconda Belli in May of this year, in reference to the daily attacks by Rosario Murillo.

He is also a writer Sergio Ramirez Mercado, spoke in similar terms last November in an interview with the journalist Gumersindo Lafuente, from eldiario.es. “Pope Francis has kept a silence that is heard throughout the world about the situation in Nicaragua”, said Ramirez. “It would be advisable for all the Catholic faithful in Nicaragua, who are half the population, to listen to what the Pope has to say about this barbarity that has been going on since 2018 and that continues to happen now with the detention of so many people, with the unstoppable growth of political prisoners”.

The Nicaraguan journalist specializing in issues of the Catholic Church, Israel Gonzalezhas a more benevolent opinion about the management of Pope Francis, of whom he says “he is taking an extremely prudent attitude towards the increasingly complicated situation in Nicaragua for the Church and believers.”

He says that the expulsion of nuncio Waldemar Stanislaw Sommertag indicates that “there was not a good relationship between Managua and the Apostolic Palace of the Holy See.”

“The Church must also know how to interpret it through signs. In this sense, this year, the Holy See did not send any representative to the farce of the inauguration of Ortega and his wife. And Francisco supported the version of the Church in the Plaza de San Pedro by assuring that what happened with the image of the Blood of Christ in the Metropolitan Cathedral of Managua had been an attack, and not ‘a fire’, as the regime maintains”, add.

“In view of the brutal hardening of the regime, one would have to think that a more direct position of the Pope would generate much greater repression and violence against the local Church, its bishops, priests, nuns and temples,” says the journalist, who lives in exile in Spain. .

For the political analyst, Elisha Nunez, Pope Francis”it is imbued with that anachronism of the Latin American left that saw things in black and white, for or against the gringos. He looks at Daniel Ortega as the guerrilla fighter of 1979 and continues to believe that he is part of a movement for social change and not the dictator that he really is.”

The Nigerian priest Fortunatus Nwachukwu was apostolic nuncio in Nicaragua and is now a permanent observer for the Holy See at the United Nations Office.
The Nigerian priest Fortunatus Nwachukwu was apostolic nuncio in Nicaragua and is now a permanent observer for the Holy See at the United Nations Office.

Núñez also attributes the attitude of the pope to the alleged advice of the former Vatican nuncio in Nicaragua, the Nigerian priest Fortunatus Nwachukwunow permanent observer of the Holy See in the United Nations Office and specialized agencies in Geneva and in the World Trade Organization and representative of the Holy See.

“Nwachukwu is the worst nuncio we have ever had. He became part of Rosario Murillo’s protégés and was someone who received many favors from the regime. So now that he is the nuncio to the United Nations from the Vatican, he is someone who supports or advises Pope Francis,” says Núñez.

This situation of the church leaves us in a difficult situation for the opposition because Francisco was left with the photograph of the fall of Somoza and of the dictatorships of the 50s to the 80s in Latin Americaa” he adds. “You are being unfair. Absolutely unfair because this is a matter of human rights violations, torture, religious persecution, and they have nothing to do with the left or the right.”.

Since 2018, the Daniel Ortega regime has maintained constant harassment of the Catholic Church.
Since 2018, the Daniel Ortega regime has maintained constant harassment of the Catholic Church.

An expert on ecclesiastical issues, who requests anonymity for protection, attributes the regime’s repression of the Catholic Church to “a logic of absolute control that the couple that misgoverns us intends”.

“The Catholic Church competes with the regime’s control network because it has parishes in all the municipalities. Every temple is a meeting place. On Sundays people hear a critical thought about what is happening: the suffering of those who died, of the prisoners, the separation of families by mass migration, unemployment, the rise in food prices… Hear about reality. And today, talking about reality is a political act in itself.”

“Why are pastors who lead evangelical cults not persecuted? Because, with some exceptions, in those spaces the messages have always been and are always less down to earth, they are apolitical, they are further from reality, they are more heavenly”, he adds.

Analyst Eliseo Núñez says that Ortega is doing the same thing that Sandinismo did in the 1980s. “He supports the Evangelicals to fight against the Catholics because he knows that the Evangelicals are a dispersed religion, without a defined hierarchical line and they believe that Christians We are obliged to accept whatever government we have, regardless of what it is, based on a very rigid biblical interpretation that does not allow them to have the courage to confront an authoritarian regime.”

For the expert on ecclesiastical issues, the Pope “may be making some cautious steps” but considers that, given everything that is happening in Nicaragua “after more than four years, the silence of the Pope is scandalous”.

KEEP READING:

Daniel Ortega’s regime intensifies the persecution of priests and the siege against the Catholic Church
Daniel Ortega’s regime crossed another line and imprisoned a priest for the first time

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