In Nicaragua, arson targets a cathedral

AN UNIDENTIFIED MAN threw a firebomb in Managua’s Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Nicaragua, July 31, 2020. The Archdiocese of Managua, headed by Cardinal Leopoldo Brenes, released a statement that labeled the attack an “act of sacrilege and profanation.” It was the third attack on a church in the country in the last three weeks. Catholic leaders see the hand of forces supporting President Daniel Ortega, with whom the Church has been in conflict ever since a bloody crackdown on an April 2018 uprising and its aftermath in which hundreds died. Aid to the Church in Need Executive President Thomas Heine-Geldern weighs in:

“We wish to express our closeness to the Catholics of the country at this difficult time and assure them of the support of our prayers. This is the most recent incident in a string of anti-Christian attacks, not only against buildings, but against the Catholic faith as well. We hope that the person or persons responsible for this attack will quickly be brought to justice.”

Danaged Blood of Christ
Damaged Blood of Christ

According to a statement by the Archdiocese of Managua, on July 31 a man entered the Chapel of the Precious Blood, in Managua’s cathedral, and threw a firebomb, partially destroying a precious 17th-century wooden image called the Blood of Christ, before which Pope John Paul II had prayed during his visit to the country in 1996.

The statement expressly identified the attack as an act of terrorism, contradicting an earlier remark by the wife of President Ortega, Rosario Murillo, who is also Vice-president, claiming that it had been an accident caused by burning candles. This was categorically denied by the archdiocese, which stated that precisely for fire safety reasons and on account of the great historical and religious significance of the crucifix no candles had been permitted close to the image. Instead, witnesses testified that it was a carefully planned and executed attack and that the attacker clearly knew what he was doing with the firebomb.

“These attacks against the faith of the Catholic people need to be carefully analyzed, in order to expose the ideological and physical perpetrators of this macabre and sacrilegious act,” the statement by the archdiocese continued.

The arson attack is merely the latest in a string of attacks against Catholic churches in Nicaragua. In the last two weeks alone there have been three such attacks on Catholic churches, acts of deliberate destruction and theft of sacred objects. The archdiocese described it as nothing less than an expression of hatred towards the Catholic Church and her mission of evangelization. The Vatican has also called for an investigation of the arson attack.