A new investigative report shows that in less than four years, the Catholic Church in Nicaragua has been the target of 190 attacks and desecrations, including a fire in the Managua Cathedral, police harassment, and persecution of bishops and priests under the regime of Daniel Ortega.
Newsroom (14/06/2022 10:15 AM Gaudium Press) The report, “Nicaragua: A Persecuted Church? (2018-2022),” by attorney Martha Patricia Molina Montenegro, a member of the Pro-Transparency and Anti-Corruption Observatory, notes that “the role of the Catholic Church has been fundamental in the crisis of human rights violations that Nicaragua is facing.”
The lawyer’s report exposes the regime of Ortega, who has governed Nicaragua continuously since 2007 along with his wife, Rosario Murillo (now vice president), as it “initiated an indiscriminate persecution against bishops, priests, seminarians, religious, lay groups and towards everything that has a direct or indirect relationship with the Catholic Church.”
The report documents the crisis that broke out in April 2018 with protests in Nicaragua over a series of reforms to the social security system, which increased the contribution of companies and employees, as well as deductions for retirees.
The demonstrations began in the city of León and spread throughout the country. A violent government crackdown left at least 355 dead, the report states.
In 2021, amid allegations of fraud and the political persecution of rival presidential candidates, Ortega was re-elected for the third time as president of Nicaragua.
“Before April 2018, cases of abuse against the Church were sporadic. After that date, hostilities increased, and the tone is getting worse,” the document warns.
“The offensive and threatening language of the presidential couple against the Catholic hierarchy became more and more evident and frequent; and the actions of some public institutions against the charitable work of the church increased.” Although “we can’t affirm that all the mishaps compiled in this study have been planned and executed by the followers of Ortega-Murillo,” Molina notes, “neither can one plead not guilty.”
“The truth is that in years before President Ortega assumed power, these frontal attacks against the religious institution were not carried out,” she points out.
The report notes that in 2018 alone, there were 46 attacks against the Catholic Church, including a mob entering the Managua Cathedral, death threats against Nicaraguan priests, and the desecration of different churches.
In 2019, 48 attacks took place, including death threats against the auxiliary bishop of Managua, Silvio José Báez Ortega, who that same year had to go into exile outside of Nicaragua.
In 2020 there were 40 attacks against the Church, including desecrations and the firebomb attack on the Managua Cathedral, which damaged the Blood of Christ Chapel.
In 2021, a further wave of 35 attacks was recorded, including desecrations, robberies of churches, and insults by Daniel Ortega against Catholic bishops and priests.
So far, in 2022, 21 attacks have already been registered, including the police harassing in May the bishop of Matagalpa, Most Rev. Rolando José Álvarez. He is also the apostolic administrator of the Diocese of Estelí.
Compiled by Raju Hasmukh