Catholic Church ‘persecuted’ in Nicaragua

Bishop Carlos Avilés Cantón says the government of President Daniel Ortega is persecuting the Church in Nicaragua and is not serious about the National Dialogue.

By Devin Watkins

The bishops of Nicaragua have agreed to write a letter to President Ortega, to ask whether he wants them to continue mediating the National Dialogue.

Bishop Carlos Avilés Cantón, Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Managua, said: “The Church always seeks dialogue, but there is no dialogue without the government wanting to participate.”

He offered that assessment on Friday in an interview with the Catholic Channel of Nicaragua. He is acting as a counselor for the National Dialogue Commission.

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“The Church is always on the side of the people, those who are poor and in need, those who suffer, die, are unjustly imprisoned, or disappear,” he said.

At least 448 people have died in more than 100 days of protests against the government of President Daniel Ortega.

Repeat of 1980 persecution

Bishop Avilés said Nicaragua is reliving the experience of 1980, when persecution broke out against the Church. The difference this time, he said, is that there is no war or economic oppression. But the government continues to manipulate the Church, he noted.

President Daniel Ortega, he said, is making up lies about priests encouraging violence and hiding weapons. “The clergy is acting in all pacifism, and is praying for those who persecute us, without forgetting the search for truth and justice.”

Nicaraguans united

Bishop Avilés said Nicaraguans are united against the government, unlike in 1980. He said they are seeking justice, truth, and peace, and an end to the violence.

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“Dialogue must be advanced by the government, the opposition, and the Church, without international assistance,” he said. Bishop Avilés said Pope Francis supports this path.

He said the government of President Ortega has held up the National Dialogue by refusing to be confronted with the political question. “The government,” he said, “refuses to see that the people want change and a new government.”

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