Seven key facts to understand the situation of the Church in Nicaragua
The ongoing effort to silence dissenting voices in the country has directly targeted the Nicaraguan Catholic Church on several occasions.
The ongoing effort to silence dissenting voices in the country has directly targeted the Nicaraguan Catholic Church on several occasions. In less than four years, the Catholic Church in Nicaragua has suffered more than 190 attacks and desecrations, including the burning of the Cathedral of Managua, the expulsion of the Missionaries of Charity and the highly irregular house arrest of the Bishop Rolando Álvarez, accused of “crimes against spirituality”.
A report prepared by Martha Patricia Molina Montenegromember of the Observatorio Pro Transparencia y Anticorruptioncalled Nicaragua: a persecuted Church? (2018-2022)shows the Catholic Church was systematically targeted by the Ortega regimewhich triggered ablind persecution against bishops, priests, seminarians, religious groups, lay people and everything and everyone who has a direct or indirect relationship with the Catholic Church.” Jaime Septién, from the Spanish edition of Aleteia, gives the reader seven keys to understanding how the situation got there.
Sandinism takes over
In 1979, after many years of struggle, the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN), founded in 1961, succeeded in overthrowing the Somoza dictatorship which had ruled the country with an iron fist for several decades. The Sandinistas ruled from that year until 1990. Much of their rise to power was due to the mediation work of the Catholic Church, led at the time by the former cardinal of Managua, Miguel Obando y Bravo. At first the Sandinistas – with Daniel Ortega in the lead – were close to the Catholic Churchbut soon the break came when various members of the Church (for example, Ernesto Cardenal) were integrated into the political organization as ministers and members of the government.
John Paul II’s Public Warning
Priests who were in the Sandinista movement were suspended by the Vatican. When Pope John Paul II visited Nicaragua for the first time (March 4, 1983), two events pushed Sandinism away from the Catholic Church even further: Pope John Paul II’s public warning to Ernesto Cardenal to regularize his situation, and the cries of those who participated in the multitude of masses with the entire Ortega cabinet. The people shouted slogans in favor of people power and peace, interrupting the mass. At one point, the pope responded with these prophetic words: “The Church is the first to want peace.” At that time, there were expulsions of priests accused of “terrorism” and an atmosphere of undeclared hostility against the Church. Saint John Paul II will remember this trip as a “great dark night”.
Mario Tapia/Associated Press/East News
The expulsion of Bishop Vega
Now in power, the Sandinistas wanted revenge for the positions of the Church and the rejection of liberation theologians under the pontificate of John Paul II, seeing this as an act of opposition to the popular revolution. The persecution and eventual exile of Archbishop Rolando Alvarez recalls the persecution and exile to which the regime subjected the bishop of Juigalpa, Pablo Vega, in 1986. By means of deception, they invited Bishop Vega to a meeting. There they apprehended him, put him in a helicopter and left him on the other side of the border with Honduras. The charge, however, was similar to today’s: “treason.”