Nicaraguan authorities arrest more Catholic priests in crackdown

(Photo: © Sean Hawkey)Crowds celebrate the anniversary of the Nicaraguan revolution on July 19, 2011, in Managua, Nicaragua.

Nicaraguan authorities have arrested six priests over the past three days, bringing to 11 the number of clergy members detained since December 20, opposition figures say.

The Nicaraguan regime of President Daniel Ortega and his wife, "co-president" Rosario Murillo, is stepping up its attacks on the Catholic Church, Spain's El Pais newspaper reported on Dec. 23.

Nicaragua's Ortega is a former guerrilla leader who deposed a right-wing, U.S.-backed regime in the 1970s and ruled then for more than a decade.

He returned to power in 2007, and the Ortega regimer has ruled with an iron fist, exiling and jailing dissidents and rivals.

Ortega annulled presidential term limits and seized control of all branches of the state, VOA reported, citing Reuters and the president has also clashed with the Catholic Church.

The names of six priests arrested since Dec. 29 were published by Nicaraguan news outlets operating in Costa Rica.

They quoted church sources and exiled human rights lawyers.

Among clergy members arrested since December 20 are Isidro del Carmen Mora Ortega, a bishop.

In total, 12 priests and Bishop Isidro have been detained in recent days.

In August 2022, Bishop Rolando Alvarez was arrested and sentenced to 26 years in jail.

On Dec. 20 the Nicaraguan police seized Bishop Isidro, when he was on his way to officiate at the confirmations of 230 parishioners in the Santa Cruz parish, located in La Cruz de Río Grande, a remote municipality in the South Caribbean Coast, reported El Pais.

The bishop's arrest was the latest act of persecution against the Catholic Church in Nicaragua, where attacks have escalated over the past year.

Mass protests the central American nation's government broke out in 2018, and El Pais reported that the Catholic Church in Nicaragua has suffered 740 attacks by the Sandinista regime, according to Martha Patricia Molina, a Nicaraguan lawyer and author of the study Nicaragua: A Persecuted Church?


Over Easter, the regime's police cracked down on believers and priests, with processions in Nicaragua prohibited.

Similar bans were also enforced throughout the year, including on the Conception of Mary procession in early December.

"To date, a total of 3,639 popular pious expressions, that is, processions, have been banned throughout the country," says Molina according to El Pais.

"The objective of this persecution is always the same: to make the Catholic Church of Nicaragua completely disappear, because priests and bishops have not knelt down before the dictatorship nor have they become accomplices and cronies, which that is what they were hoping for."

Nicaragua has closed more than 3,000 associations, NGOs and unions since that start of the 2018 protests against Ortega's government.

Ortega's government was angry that churches sheltered protesters during a crackdown on those massive anti-government demonstrations, AFP reported.

Hundreds of critics have been detained, including several people who sought to challenge Ortega ahead of presidential elections in 2021.

In October, the authorities shut down the local office of the Franciscans, a Catholic order.

According to the CIA's World Factbook, 50 percent of Nicaragua's 6.36 million people are Roman Catholics and 33.3 percent are Evangelical Christians.


Copyright © 2023 Ecumenical News