Cardinal reports on crisis in Nicaragua, regime use of deadly force

“PLEASE PUT PRESSURE on the government, urging it to show respect for the bishops, the priests and the population.” This was the appeal issued via Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) by Cardinal Leopoldo José Brenes Solorzano, archbishop of Managua, Nicaragua.

Cardinal Leopoldo José Brenes

The cardinal spoke about the difficult situation in Masaya, a town some 20 miles south of the capital of Managua, which has become a symbol of the opposition to the government of President Daniel Ortega and which since 6 a.m. local time Tuesday July 17, 2018 has been besieged “by more than 1000 soldiers and police,” the cardinal reported, adding that “undoubtedly there will be numerous victims. The town has been submerged under a wave of bullets.”

Cardinal Brenes had called on the people of Masaya and the other areas under siege to remain in their homes in order to prevent further casualties. “It is an extremely difficult moment for the whole country,” he said

The clashes between loyalist and opposition forces have now been dragging on for three months, leaving close to 300 people dead; the Church itself has also come under attack. On July 9, the cardinal was assaulted by paramilitary personnel in the Basilica of San Sebastian in Diriamba, along with his auxiliary Bishop José Silvio Baez and the apostolic nuncio, Archbishop Waldemar Stanisław Sommertag. On July 16, 2018, Bishop Abelardo Mata escaped an armed attack attributed to paramilitary forces.

The repression by the Sandinista government of Daniel Ortega is now openly directed against the Church. “Hearing the appeal by Pope Francis to be [for the churches to become] ‘field hospitals,’ many of our parishes have given shelter to those seeking safety and help to the injured,” Cardinal Brenes said; “Undoubtedly this has not pleased the government. Just as it has not been pleased by our efforts in trying to dismantle these paramilitary groups.”

Cardinal Brenes, addressing his appeal to the West, and to Catholics in particular, called on the Ortega government to show respect to the Church and the Nicaraguan people. He said: “At the same time, I invite everybody to join in a chain of prayer and offer concrete support to our priests by offering Mass intentions. In fact, many of our priests have to celebrate in private, and consequently they do not receive any Mass offerings and so have no means of financial support.”

“We are very close to the Church and to the Nicaraguan people, to whom we extend our solidarity and our prayers,” said Regina Lynch, Head of Projects at ACN’s international headquarters in Germany. “In the next few months we will be visiting the order to strengthen our bonds of communion in prayer and boost our pastoral support,” she said.

—Marta Petrosillo