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Study reveals 190 attacks against the Catholic Church in the last four years

Assaults against priests, bishops and nuns account for 37% of hostilities against the Catholic Church

en Masaya.

Redacción Confidencial

8 de junio 2022


In the last four years - until May 2022 - 190 cases of aggressions against the Catholic Church in Nicaragua have been registered, according to the study Nicaragua: a persecuted Church?, which systematizes the different types of attacks suffered by the religious institution since 2018, when they opened their temples to protect the citizenry from government repression and denounced the massacre that left 355 killed in the context of civic protests, according to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR).

In the report prepared by lawyer Martha Patricia Molina, member of the Pro Transparency and Anti-Corruption Observatory, the aggressions were classified into seven categories: graffiti on walls and anonymous messages in Catholic temples; aggressions, threats, and exiles to priests, bishops, and lay Catholics; obstacles to Non-Profit Organizations (NPOs) of the Catholic Church; aggressive messages against priests and religious by President Daniel Ortega and Vice President Rosario Murillo; desecration of temples; robberies and others.

Aggressions against priests, bishops, and nuns represent 37% of the hostilities against the Catholic Church, followed by desecrations of temples, which comprise 19% of the facts systematized through journalistic publications based on denunciations made by priests or authorities of the Dioceses, explained the researcher Molina.

Molina clarifies in the text that it cannot be affirmed that all the aggressions compiled in the study were planned and executed by followers of Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo, but neither can it be discarded, mainly because “the offensive and threatening language of the presidential couple against the Catholic hierarchy became increasingly evident and frequent, and the actions of some public institutions against the charitable work of the Church increased”.

The crusade of the Ortega regime against the Catholic Church went up in tone starting in 2018. Ortega and Murillo themselves have labeled the bishops as “terrorists”, “coup plotters” and “sons of the devil”  and from their propaganda machinery, they have designed defamatory campaigns against priests acclaimed by the people for their prophetic voice, such as the auxiliary bishop of Managua, Silvio Baez, exiled since 2019, for his own safety.

“What we are observing after 2018 is that everything that is being done is with viciousness, with hatred, in order to destroy everything that means religiosity or Catholicism in the country, and why they do it, for the simple and straightforward reason, that the bishops and priests have decided to open the temples of their parishes to shelter all those people who have been in one way or another affected by the current regime,” explains Molina. 

2019: the most disastrous year for the Church

The year with the highest record of aggressions was 2019, with 48% of the cases, followed by 2018 with 46%; 2020 with 40%, and 2021 with 35%. However, Molina does not rule out that 2022 could exceed the number of attacks that occurred last year.

In 2019, the Police besieged the San Miguel church for more than a week, while the parish priest Edwing Román and mothers of political prisoners were inside, without access to food and under threats. That same year, Ortega fanatics attempted to desecrate the San Juan Bautista church, in Masaya, while priest Harving Padilla was celebrating mass. The parishioners took it upon themselves to fight off the horde of Ortega fanatics and secured the church doors with the pews as they lived through moments of terror.

The study also revealed that the Archdiocese of Managua, which includes in addition to the capital, Masaya and Carazo, was the most attacked, followed by the Diocese of Matagalpa and Estelí, and to a lesser extent, the Diocese of León.

Among the most attacked figures are the auxiliary bishop of Managua, Monsignor Silvio Báez; Monsignor Rolando José Álvarez, bishop of the Diocese of Matagalpa and apostolic administrator of the Diocese of Estelí; Monsignor Juan Abelardo Mata, who until 2021 was in charge of the Diocese of Estelí and the priest Vicente Martínez, pastor of the church Santa Lucía in Ciudad Darío, Matagalpa.

Molina points out that the level of hostility against priests and bishops that occurring has not been seen before, and does not rule out that the escalation will continue.

The threat of imprisonment

The arrest of priest Manuel Salvador Garcia was the last act of persecution against the Church in recent weeks, which had previously forced Bishop Alvarez to take refuge in a church in Managua, where he was surrounded for three days by police checkpoints. Meanwhile, in Masaya, Father Harving Padilla remained in the parish as a jail, due to the police device installed around the San Juan Bautista church. Both priests were evacuated from the churches with the support of other members of the church.

The case of Father Garcia was made known through the pro-government media, which started a defamatory campaign. A woman identified as Martha Candelaria Rivas Hernández, 44 years old and inhabitant of Diriá, Granada, accused the priest of beating her on the night of May 30, without evidence.

“We had already been saying it since the moment that document was signed in the National Assembly, some weeks ago that it was the prelude to judge and prosecute priests and bishops”, alerts Molina. 

The researcher refers to a report approved by the Ortega's deputies that opens the door to the criminalization of priests, so she warns that cases such as that of priest García could be repeated. Molina emphasizes that after 2018, “all respect” and “consideration” for priests and citizens “was lost”. 

This article was originally published in Spanish in Confidencial and translated by our staff. 



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Redacción Confidencial

Redacción Confidencial

Confidencial es un diario digital nicaragüense, de formato multimedia, fundado por Carlos F. Chamorro en junio de 1996. Inició como un semanario impreso y hoy es un medio de referencia regional con información, análisis, entrevistas, perfiles, reportajes e investigaciones sobre Nicaragua, informando desde el exilio por la persecución política de la dictadura de Daniel Ortega y Rosario Murillo.