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UN human rights report on Nicaragua cites ‘attacks on Catholic Church’

September 15, 2022 Catholic News Agency 2
Bishop José Álvarez Lagos is surrounded by police officers on Aug. 4, 2022. The bishop’s detention was cited in a Sept. 13, 2022, U.N. human-rights report. / Diocese Media TV Merced / Diocese of Matagalpa

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Sep 15, 2022 / 09:50 am (CNA).

The United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) released a report Sept. 13 that condemned the regime of Nicaragua’s President Daniel Ortega and his wife, Vice President Rosario Murillo, citing a “deterioration of the human rights situation.”  

The report included a compilation of recent incidents in which the Nicaraguan government has attacked and repressed the Catholic Church. 

Ortega, who took office in 2007, has become increasingly authoritarian since his re-election in November 2021. A brutal crackdown on protesters in 2018, the arrest and imprisonment of political opponents before the presidential election, and the repression of the Church prompted a U.N. resolution to further monitor the country.

The report, introduced before the 51st session of the UNHRC in Geneva, documented known human rights violations since March when the report was commissioned.  

In summing up the report’s findings, U.N. official Christian Salazar Volkmann cited “serious violations of civil and political rights, the absence of a national dialogue, the deepening of the political crisis, and the isolation of Nicaragua from the international community.”

“I urge the international community to sustain its efforts and engagement, including, most urgently, to keep calling on the authorities for the release of the arbitrarily detained persons,” Volkmann said. 

Attacks on the Catholic Church

Included among the findings were attacks on the Catholic Church:

— In March, the report noted, Nicaragua expelled the apostolic nuncio, “who had supported dialogue at the beginning of the crisis.”

— On Aug. 1, Nicaraguan police broke into a Catholic radio station in Sébaca, Matagalpa, using violent force. A parish priest and six others were confined in his house for three days without food or electricity.

— The bishop of Matagalpa, Rolando Álvarez, along with two priests, was harassed beginning in May, the report noted. On Aug. 4, police surrounded the bishop’s home and prevented him from going to the cathedral to celebrate Mass. The bishop, five other priests, and six lay people were held by riot police and subject to a criminal investigation. According to human-rights observers, as of today, his location is not known.

— Between May and August, government authorities shut down 12 radio and television media outlets of the Catholic Church, “arguing that they did not have operating permits,” the report said.

— Twelve universities “had their legal personality canceled,” according to the U.N. report. Among them was the Jesuit-run Central American University.

Other human rights abuses

The Catholic Church was only one entity targeted by the Ortega regime. Other instances of human-rights violations found in the report include:

— As many as 1,178 human rights and development organizations were shut down or ordered to leave the country. Among these nongovernmental organizations were entities affiliated with the Catholic Church, including members of Mother Teresa’s order, the Missionaries of Charity, who were expelled from the country in July.

— As of the writing of the report, 180 people who were arrested during the political crisis of 2021 remain in detention. The report found that their trials were held behind closed doors, and the attorneys of the accused were denied access to evidence and were not allowed to meet with their clients for more than a few minutes before their hearings.

— The U.N. body’s investigations found inhumane conditions at a detention center that resulted in the death of one individual in February. The report noted that the Nicaraguan government had not complied with the UNHRC’s recommendation that they “prevent acts of torture and ill-treatment in custody.”

— Freedom of the press also “deteriorated,” according to the report, which noted that the manager of La Prensa, who was arrested in the run-up to the 2021 elections, was sentenced to nine years in prison for money laundering. The newspaper’s staff has since fled the country, “joining the 120 other journalists who are in exile.” Three journalists were also sentenced to up to 13 years in prison for “spreading fake news and undermining national integrity.”

— The report found that the Nicaraguan government had failed to carry out the recommendations of the UNHRC that included electoral reform and the investigation of human rights violations committed by security forces. 


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Pope Francis joins UN chief’s appeal for Ukraine war Easter truce

April 21, 2022 Catholic News Agency 1
Pope Francis on Palm Sunday 2022 in St. Peter’s Square. / Daniel Ibanez/CNA

Vatican City, Apr 21, 2022 / 06:40 am (CNA).

Pope Francis has joined the head of the United Nations and the leader of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church in a call for a four-day truce in Ukraine for the Triduum and Easter.

The Eastern Orthodox churches and the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church follow the Julian calendar, meaning they will celebrate Easter on April 24 this year.

The appeal for an Easter truce was launched on April 19 by Antonio Guterres, secretary general of the UN, in agreement with Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk.

“Easter is a season for renewal, resurrection and hope. It is a time for reflection on the meaning of suffering, sacrifice, death — and rebirth. It is meant to be a moment of unity,” Guterres said at UN headquarters in New York

“This year, Holy Week is being observed under the cloud of a war that represents the total negation of the Easter message,” he said, calling for a four-day pause on fighting, beginning on Holy Thursday, April 21, to allow for the opening of humanitarian corridors and the safe delivery of aid.

The Vatican announced on April 21 that Pope Francis had joined the UN chief’s appeal, after the pope had called for an Easter truce in Ukraine during Palm Sunday Mass on April 10.

“In the knowledge that nothing is impossible for God, they invoke the Lord so that the population trapped in war zones may be evacuated and peace may soon be restored, and they ask those in charge of the Nations to listen to the people’s cry for peace,” a Vatican press release said.

At the end of Mass on Palm Sunday 2022, Pope Francis urged the laying down of weapons for an “Easter truce.”

Before an estimated 65,000 people in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis said that “nothing is impossible for God.”

“He can even bring an end to a war whose end is not in sight, a war that daily places before our eyes heinous massacres and atrocious cruelty committed against defenseless civilians. Let us pray about this.”