Vatican Nuncio Expelled from Nicaragua

Polish Archbishop Waldemar Stanislaw Sommertag, the Apostolic nuncio to Nicaragua, was forced to leave the country following his “de-facto expulsion.” He is currently in Rome.

Newsroom (13/03/2022 2:15 PM Gaudium Press) On March 7, the nunciature in Managua published a short note stating that Archbishop Waldemar Stanislaw Sommertag, the Apostolic nuncio to Nicaragua, had “absented” from the country the previous day.

Before the end of the week, the Vatican is expected to release a statement clarifying the circumstances of his departure, making it clear that he was expelled by the government and not called back by the Holy See.

According to observers, the turning point in the deterioration of relations between the Vatican and the Ortega regime took place on November 18, 2021, when the Nicaraguan government made public a decree cancelling the figure of “dean of the diplomatic corps.” Traditionally, in countries with a Catholic majority, the papal nuncio serves as dean of the diplomatic corps.

Sommertag was removed as dean soon after he began to use the term “political prisoners,” which he had avoided during the almost three years he served as a behind-the-scenes mediator between the government and the families of the hundreds of prisoners.

Among those arrested by the government are all the opposition candidates who had voiced an intention to run against Ortega in the presidential elections held last year.

Sources reported that the nuncio’s removal decision came directly from Ortega and his wife, vice-president Rosario Murillo. The couple has long clashed with the Catholic hierarchy due to the bishops’ condemnation of the violent repression of a peaceful civil uprising in 2018.

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Usually, when an ambassador is expelled from a country, the corresponding diplomat is also expelled. However, Nicaraguan Ambassador Eliette Ortega Sotomayor left the post in August 2021, and Ortega never replaced her. The role is still vacant.

Since the 2018 protests, Catholic churches have been attacked, including the Managua cathedral in 2020. In 2019, Managua Auxiliary Bishop Silvio José Báez was essentially forced from his diocese at Pope Francis’s request after receiving several death threats.

Last year, the Ortegas named the bishops “coup perpetrators,” “offspring of the devil,” “foreign agents,” and accused them of preaching a false Christianity. They have dispatched police to intimidate bishops and priests, even installing a police booth across the street from the home of Cardinal Leopoldo Brenes Solorzano, the archbishop of Managua.

Sommerstag had the difficult task of walking the fine line between keeping the dialogue channels with the government open and protecting his flock: Persecution of Christians, particularly the Catholic Church, has been on the rise in Nicaragua since 2018, according to the United States’ Commission for International Religious Freedom.

When the protests broke out in 2018, the country’s bishops and Sommerstag attempted to mediate a national dialogue between protesters and the government at Ortega’s request. When the initiative failed, the prelates were blamed by the regime.

During later talks, the bishops were banned from the dialogue by Ortega. However, the papal representative was allowed to stay as a “witness” who was “accompanying” the talks.

When the dialogue stalled again, Sommerstag couldn’t avoid voicing his frustration and called Nicaragua a country where there are “a lot of lies,” adding that “some forces are mining the field” of the dialogue process aimed at ending the crisis.

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(Via Crux Now)

Compiled by Raju Hasmukh

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