Brazilian Bishops ask for peace and justice in Nicaragua
By Lisa Zengarini
The Brazilian Bishops have joined other Latin American bishops in expressing fraternal solidarity and prayerful closeness to the Church in Nicaragua in the face of the events it has endured over the past weeks amid growing tensions with the Sandinista regime.
Praying for justice and peace
“We feel deeply united with our brother bishops and the entire Nicaraguan people”, said the Presidency of the National Conference of Bishops of Brazil (CNBB) in a letter sent on August 15 to the President of the Episcopal Conference of Nicaragua, Bishop Carlos Enrique Herrera Gutiérrez of Jinotega. In the letter the Brazilian Bishops say they pray the “that peace and justice may be achieved”.
Crackdown on Church
In recent weeks, the Nicaraguan government led by President Daniel Ortega has expelled the Missionaries of Charity, closed eight Catholic radio stations, arrested three priests, and confined in house-arrest Bishops Rolando Álvarez of the Northern diocese of Matagalpa, with other five priests and two seminarians on grounds of him using media and social networks to carry out acts of violence and to destabilise the country. In the latest incident a parish priest of the Diocese do Siuna was arrested by the police on August 14 after celebrating Mass and taken to a prison in the capital Managua.
Widespread outcry in Latin America
The crackdown has drawn a widespread outcry from Bishops' conferences across Latin America, including the Latin American Episcopal Council (Celam).
The Holy See too has expressed concerns over the latest developments in the Central American nation through its Permanent Observer to the Organization of American States (OAS) Msgr. Juan Antonio Cruz Serrano, who last week called on the parties “to find ways of understanding, based on respect and mutual trust, seeking above all the common good and peace."
Relations between the Sandinista Government and the Church have been strained since 2018, when Nicaraguan authorities clamped down on protests against a series of controversial reforms to the social security system. Despite attempts to mediate in the crisis, bishops were ultimately banned from the dialogue and relations further worsened after the controversial 2021 elections which confirmed President Ortega for a fifth term amid allegations of fraud and the political persecution of rival presidential candidate.
Bishops branded as 'terrorists'
Since the outbreak of the crisis, the Church has been the target of several attacks and desecrations, as well as harassment and intimidations of clerics, with bishops being branded as terrorists. In 2019, Managua Auxiliary Bishop Silvio José Báez was forced to leave the Diocese of Managua at Pope Francis’s request after receiving several death threats. In March this year Managua expelled the Apostolic Nuncio to Nicaragua, Archbishop Waldemar Stanislaw Sommertag, as “persona non grata”.