The dictatorship of Daniel Ortega, in a new onslaught against the Catholic Church, banned the traditional procession of the Stations of the Cross in all parishes in Nicaragua, confirmed parishioners and clergy members consulted by CONFIDENCIAL. The priests announced that the parade, which recreates the Passion of Christ prior to Holy Week, will take place inside the temples.
“The Stations of the Cross are going to be conducted with deliberation, but inside the temple; no procession in the street,” assured Carmen, a parishioner, and member of the parish community in Matagalpa, who spoke to CONFIDENCIAL under an assumed name. She adds that the order covers the whole department, which remains under heavy police surveillance after the kidnapping of the bishop and now political prisoner, Rolando Alvarez, condemned by the Ortega justice system to 26 years in prison for fabricated crimes of conspiracy and false news, after refusing to be exiled to the United States.
In Masaya, the instructions are the same. “Claudia” was unsurprised when the priest announced the measure at the Sunday Eucharist. “This was already expected,” she says, and immediately realized that the only thing to do is “not to say anything and obey our parish priest,” she says with resignation.
In Managua, “Catalina”, another parishioner and member of prayer groups, confirms that the order is definite: they cannot leave the church, and everything must be done inside, otherwise, they threatened to close the parish.
The prohibition of the Way of the Cross is a police order
A source linked to the Catholic Church assured that the prohibition of the processions comes from the Police. This new act of hostility coincides with the hate speech promulgated by Daniel Ortega against the Church.
On February 21, during the commemoration of the 89th anniversary of the death of Augusto C. Sandino, Ortega described the Church as “a mafia”, which does not represent the principles of God nor those of Christ.
“They are a mafia, look at the crimes they have committed, how many crimes they have committed and crimes continue to come out every day,” he questioned in his speech. However, the Nicaraguan Catholic hierarchy continues to remain silent in the face of the multiple aggressions of the president, even after the condemnation of Bishop Alvarez.
The Way of the Cross is suspended in parishes of Carazo
On social networks, it was reported that a police commissioner arrived at the parish of San Antonio de Padua, in Jinotepe, “to tell the priest Luis Herrera that all Stations of the Cross are prohibited”. Other citizens were alerted of the presence of a police patrol outside the Jinotepe church.
A parish priest of Carazo confirmed to CONFIDENCIAL that the Stations of the Cross that are organized every Friday during Lent will only take place around the church. “We ask the community for patience, and we ask the Lord to grant us all the grace of conversion during Lent”, he added after indicating that “so that the people who gladly received the stations programmed for the central zone know that their intentions will be said here in the church”.
The Stations of the Cross will not take place in the streets of Leon and Chinandega
In the parishes of the diocese of Leon and Chinandega, the Stations of the Cross will not take place beyond the immediate surroundings of the churches.
Parishes such as Dulce Nombre de Jesús, San Antonio, and Santa Ana, are closely followed by a large number of faithful. In previous years, a Stations of the Cross from the San Antonio church traveled 30 streets every Friday of Lent, at four in the morning or six in the afternoon. Those long routes are no longer possible.
A 35-year-old woman who lives in western Nicaragua and works with church groups in Leon believes that the banning of the Stations of the Cross has no spiritual impact, but does have an emotional impact. “Even if the route is only done in the courtyard of the temple it does not matter because it has a deep sense of penance for every Catholic, it is an intimate act with God. The real impact is emotional because of the loss of freedom and the pain of a controlled Church,” she said.
“We will pray for Bishop Alvarez, the imprisoned bishop”
Among the parishioners, men and women, there is indignation for not allowing the population to accompany the image of the Crucified Christ in the streets, which is one of the oldest devotions of the church. They also expressed their concern that the priests cannot speak out about the situation for their safety. “The priests themselves have a muzzle imposed on them. A priest now limits himself to reading the gospel and shares a brief message in which he is careful not to be compromised by any word,” said a devout Catholic.
There is also uncertainty as to whether religious acts will be allowed during Easter, but pastoral groups are preparing the rituals in spite of this. “We do not know if the Easter processions will also be prohibited. In any case, we have managed economic support to cover the expenses such as the arrangement of altars, the saints' clothing, cleaning of the temples, and even the music for the processions. Hopefully, they will not leave us hanging with the preparations ready,” he added.
Pro-Ortega mayors' offices will organize religious activities
While the processions and Stations of the Cross are prohibited by Ortega's orders, Police authorities and mayoral offices of the Sandinista Front in several municipalities of the departments of Madriz and Nueva Segovia have visited the Catholic temples to coordinate all the Easter celebrations with the priests, under the guidance of “President Daniel Ortega and Vice President Rosario Murillo.”
Catholic parishioners assured CONFIDENCIAL that the priests confirmed that the authorities of the Police and the municipalities have notified that all religious activities to be carried out during Holy Week will be coordinated with both institutions.
In the city of Somoto, the capital of the department of Madriz, the Sandinista mayor Dania Sugey Martínez Mondragón, stated that all religious activities to be held will be organized by the municipality.
In other parishes, they also report that they have received guidance not to mention Monsignor Rolando Alvarez or ask for prayers for his health or any other manifestation in his favor.
This article was originally published in Spanish in Confidencial and translated by our staff