Nicaragua raises heat on persecution of Catholics

The Catholic Church is facing increased repression in Nicaragua, leading to new resistance efforts by the hierarchy as well as a growing exile community in the U.S. that is taking up the fight for religious freedom. Writing in The Pillar (June 28), Edgar Beltrán Notes that things have changed dramatically since the time when Nicaraguan president Daniel Ortega attempted to appease the church, even having a Catholic wedding with his longtime partner, Rosario Murillo, shortly before he was elected in 2007. In 2010, Ortega drove forward constitutional changes that allowed him to run indefinitely as president, and in 2018 he faced widespread protests due to a lack of free elections and a serious economic crisis. The church tried to serve as a mediator, an effort which backfired as Catholic officials faced even more “distrust from the Ortega regime, [which] turned the church into a political scapegoat,” even claiming that it took part in an attempted coup. The church’s support and sheltering of protesting students from a Managua university in July 2018 was another factor in the wave of repression that has now reached its highest point since the turbulent 1980s. “The last few months have seen a jailed priest and many more exiled, a Catholic TV station shuttered by the government, and numerous attacks on churches, priests, and bishops in Nicaragua,” Beltrán writes.

Source: Archdiocese of Miami.

Bishop Rolando Álvarez of Matagalpa has recently started fasting and urging a prayer movement to protest against government persecution. Father Harving Padilla is another one of the most critical voices of the Nicaraguan regime within the church. The parish priest of the San Juan Bautista parish spent over two weeks completely locked up within his church, claiming he was under “parish arrest.” Beltrán describes how the protest movement has taken on a spatial dimension, as the political and religious persecution has had the predictable effect of exile. Thousands of Nicaraguans have fled the country in the past few years due to political persecution and the dire economic conditions there. In 2021 and 2022 alone, over 160,000 Nicaraguans arrived in the U.S. Many of them have chosen Miami as their final destination because it already has a large nica community that now surpasses 120,000 people. Beltrán writes that “many of them know which is the first place they will go to after they arrive: Saint Agatha Church, in Miami, which has become the spiritual heart of the Nicaraguan exile in the U.S. Hundreds of Nicaraguans gather in the Church every Sunday—while a few thousand[] do so by streaming—to listen to the homilies of Bishop Silvio Báez,” who recently fled to Miami after government harassment.

(The Pillar, substack&utm_medium=email)