President Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua President Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua 

Nicaragua bans Jesuits and confiscates all their assets

As the crackdown against the Catholic Church in Nicaragua continues, President Daniel Ortega’s regime declares the Jesuit religious order illegal and orders the confiscation of all its assets.

By Lisa Zengarini

Despite worldwide protests and condemnation, the Sandinista regime’s crackdown against the Catholic Church and opposition continues unabated.

After expelling a community of Jesuit priests from their private residence nera the Central American University (UCA) in Managua, and confiscating the university, on Wednesday, 23 August, Nicaraguan authorities banned the entire Society of Jesus from the country and ordered the confiscation of all its assets, claiming the religious order had failed to comply with tax reporting.

Jesuit-run UCA confiscated and Jesuits evicted from their residence 

The move comes one week after the government closed the Jesuit-run UCA in Managua which was a hub for 2018 protests against President Daniel Ortega’s regime, arguing it was a “centre of terrorism”.

The seizure, which adds the some 26 Nicaraguan universities the Sandinista regime has closed since 2021, was followed three days later by the eviction of a community of six Jesuit priests from their residence nearby.

The measures have sparked strong reactions from Jesuit worldwide, including the Superior General of the order, Father Arturo de Sosa, SJ.  

In a statement last week, Central American Province of the Society of Jesus described the government's policy as a systematic violation of human rights “aimed at consolidating a totalitarian state.”

New condemnation from the Central American Jesuit Province 

In a new statement released on Wednesday, 23 August,  the Jesuit Province strongly condemned the “new aggression against the Jesuit Order in Nicaragua” and, again, appealed the Nicaraguan government to put an immediate end to its “systematic repression”  and violation of human rights leading the country to  a totalitarian state.

The statement further urged President Ortega and his wife, Vice-President Rosario Murillo, to seek  “a rational solution” to the contention, while asking for "the respect of the freedom and total integrity" of the Jesuits working in the country and their collaborators.

Finally,  the Jesuit Province of Central America  expressed closeness to the "thousands of victims" of government repression in Nicaragua "awaiting justice and reparation" and gratitude for world-wide support and solidarity received during this crisis.  

Worsening relations between Sandinista Government and Church

Relations between President Daniel Ortega’s regime and the Catholic Church have deteriorated rapidly since the Nicaraguan authorities clamped down on protests against a series of controversial government-sponsored reforms in 2018, with Ortega accusing the bishops of plotting to overthrow him.

Since then, the Church has been the target of many attacks, desecrations and intimidations, and several members of clergy and  religious have been either expelled, or arrested. Among them Bishop Rolando Álvarez of Matagalpa, who is serving 26 six years in prison for high treason, undermining national integrity and spreading false news.

In 2019, Managua Auxiliary Bishop Silvio José Báez was forced to leave the Archdiocese, after receiving several death threats, and is presently living in the United States.

In 2022, the Apostolic Nuncio to Nicaragua, Polish Archbishop Waldemar Stanislaw Sommertag, was expelled as “persona non grata”, and in April this year, the Holy See closed its nunciature in Managua, after the Nicaraguan government proposed suspending diplomatic relations.

Crackdown on opposition

The expulsions, closures and confiscations have not targeted only the Catholic Church. Nicaragua has outlawed or closed more than 3,000 civic groups and non-governmental organizations. In May, the government ordered the Nicaraguan Red Cross shut down, accusing it of “attacks on peace and stability” during anti-government demonstrations in 2018.

In June, the government confiscated properties belonging to 222 opposition figures, including rights activists, journalists and lawyers, who were forced into exile in February after being imprisoned by Ortega’s regime.

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24 August 2023, 11:12