Madrid, Spain, Aug 18, 2022 / 11:29 am (CNA).
At least two Spanish archdioceses have expressed their support for the Church in Nicaragua, which is being persecuted by dictator Daniel Ortega, with messages of solidarity on social media, especially for the Bishop of Matagalpa, Rolando José Álvarez.
Spain’s primatial archdiocese of Toledo, said on Twitter “We entrust the entire Diocese of Matagalpa (to God) in these critical moments and ask the Lord for the gift of fortitude for their pastors and lay faithful.”
The message was sent commenting on a previous tweet from Bishop Álvarez himself: “Love one another as I have loved you.” (Jn 15:12-27)
The recently named coadjutor archbishop of Granada, Spain, and apostolic administrator of Ávila, José María Gil Tamayo, expressed his “solidarity for the Church in Nicaragua, its freedom under siege by the dictatorship that governs the country.”
The persecution of the Catholic Church in Nicaragua has been increasing for years. The bishops accurately warned of the dictatorial drift of the Ortega government as early as 2014. The bishops have decried the indiscriminate use of force by the regime in cracking down on the opposition, beginning in 2018 when it brutally repressed protesters demanding change.
Because the Catholic Church supported the demonstrators’ cause, the government ramped up the pressure on bishops, priests, religious and lay faithful.
The clearest example is that the former auxiliary bishop of Managua, Silvio Baez, is living in exile in the United States after it became known that Ortega’s government had very probably ordered his assassination.
The apostolic nuncio to Nicaragua, Archbishop Waldemar Stanislaw Sommertag, was also expelled from the country in March of this year, with the Vatican expressing its “surprise and pain.”
“It’s incomprehensible since, during his mission, His Excellency Archbishop Sommertag has worked tirelessly for the good of the Church and the Nicaraguan people, especially the most vulnerable, always seeking to promote good relations between the Apostolic See and the Nicaraguan authorities,” the Holy See said in a statement.
In July, 18 Missionaries of Charity, whose congregation was founded by Saint Teresa of Calcutta, were also expelled.
The bishop of Matagalpa, Rolando Álvarez, has been held under house arrest at the chancery along with five priests, two seminarians and three lay people since Aug. 4 and neither food nor medicine is being allowed in. The chancery is surrounded by police and is under aerial surveillance by drones.
A few days earlier, the Sandinista regime forcibly shut down the radio stations run by the diocese of Matagalpa.
In a press release published Aug. 5, the Nicaraguan national police accused high-ranking authorities of the Catholic Church in Matagalpa — and Álvarez in particular — of “using the communications media and social media” to try to “organize violent groups, inciting them to carry out acts of hatred against the population, creating an atmosphere of anxiety and disorder, disturbing the peace and harmony of the community.”
Such actions have the “purpose of destabilizing the State of Nicaragua and attacking the constitutional authorities,” the press release continued.
The Ortega regime’s police force announced it has already started an investigation “in order to determine the criminal responsibility of the people involved.”
The statement adds that “the people under investigation shall remain in their homes.”
Ortega, who has been in power for 15 years, has been openly hostile to the Catholic Church in the country. He alleged bishops were part of an attempted coup to drive him out of office in 2018 because they supported anti-government demonstrations that his regime brutally suppressed. The Nicaraguan president has called the bishops “terrorists” and “devils in cassocks.”
According to a report titled “Nicaragua: A Persecuted Church? (2018–2022),” compiled by attorney Martha Patricia Molina Montenegro, a member of the Pro-Transparency and Anti-Corruption Observatory, 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 as well as police harassment and persecution of bishops and priests.
On Aug. 6, unidentified vandals stole the main switch to the cathedral’s electrical control system, leaving the cathedral and surrounding grounds without power. The stolen switch has been replaced, restoring electricity.
This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.
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