Diocese of Esteli at the centre of the crackdown
Newsroom (September 9, Gaudium Press) — A new chapter has opened in the government’s harassment and persecution of the Church in Nicaragua: the groundless cancellation of visas for foreign priests.
Last Monday, the Diocese of Estelí posted the following note on its website: “Father Luis Carrillo, of Colombian origin, currently the pastor of the parish of San Judas Tadeo, (…) had his residence permit in Nicaragua terminated.” Fr. Carrillo is one of the 10 foreign priests who are exercising their ministry in the Diocese. Estelí is located in the northwest part of the country.
Father Carrillo leaves “with his head held high, through the main door of his [now former] parish, for no other reason than announcing the Gospel of truth and denouncing injustice,” the note continues. “He leaves with a smile on his face and with his eyes always placed on God and on our Holy Mother”.
A post in Facebook shows the priest wearing a mask, something considered a challenge for a government that has always denied the existence of the Covid-19 pandemic. The Church established isolation facilities for people who tested positive; the government, in turn, ordered their closure.
Fr. Carrillo’s is not the only one case
According to Crux, several priests are facing deportation, even after working for decades in Nicaragua. And there are others who receive periodic visits from government officials monitoring and reporting the content of their homilies to the authorities.
Lately, the Diocese of Estelí has been a major target of attacks against the Church. Last Sunday, Cristo Rey Parish was attacked. St. Dominic’s Chapel was desecrated. On Monday, the web page of the Diocese reported that the government had closed the Technical Institute of Agriculture. The Institute is run by the Church and provides education to dozens of young people.
According to observers, the crackdown on the Diocese has a reason: Bishop Abelardo Mata of Estelí, has emerged as one of the strongest critics facing the regime.