By Devin Watkins
Pope Francis’ representative in Nicaragua, Archbishop Waldemar Stanisław Sommertag, has made a strong appeal for an end to the violence which has racked the country since April 18th.
More than 360 people have died in conflict between forces of Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega and opposition protesters, who are calling for his resignation. President Ortega has been in power since 2007 and is on his third mandate, along with his wife Rosario Murillo, the Vice President.
Pope’s deep concern
In a statement released on Tuesday, the Apostolic Nuncio called it a “tragic moment” for the country.
“I wish to express, on behalf of the Holy Father and the Holy See, my deep concern for the grave situation the country is facing. Obviously, it is unacceptable to think that the dead and victims of violence can solve the political crisis and guarantee a future of peace and prosperity in Nicaragua,” he said.
Quick return to dialogue
Archbishop Sommertag said he and Pope Francis “weep for all the dead and pray for their families”.
“With all my human and spiritual strength, I appeal to the consciences of all to reach a truce and return quickly to a national dialogue to seek together an adequate solution to solve the crisis,” he said.
The Nuncio said the country places itself under the protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary and asks “for her help so that she may always guide our beloved Nicaragua.”
Aggression against Catholic Church
On Tuesday, police and pro-government militias took control of the Masaya, a suburb of the capital Managua, which had become a symbol of resistance to President Ortega.
The Catholic Church in Nicaragua has also become a target of threats and attacks on the part of security forces.
Cardinal Leopoldo Brenes, Archbishop of Managua, was attacked by pro-government activists on July 9th, together with Archbishop Sommertag and an auxiliary of Managua, Bishop Silvio Báez.
In a separate incident, Bishop Abelardo Mata of Estelí narrowly avoided an attack last week.
Despite these acts of aggression, the bishops of Nicaragua have followed Pope Francis’ encouragement and continue to call for a return to dialogue with President Ortega’s government. The bishops also condemn “the lack of political will on the part of the government to dialogue in sincerity and seek real paths towards democracy.”