- Philippe Pullella
The Vatican on Saturday protested to Nicaragua against the effective expulsion of its ambassador to Managua, saying the unilateral action was unjustified and incomprehensible.
Archbishop Waldemar Sommertag, who had served as ambassador since 2018, had to leave the country abruptly this week after President Daniel Ortega’s government withdrew its diplomatic endorsement of the envoy, known in diplomatic parlance as an accord.
Apostolic Nuncio Monsignor Stanislaw Sommertag speaks during a press conference in Managua, Nicaragua, March 5, 2019. PHOTO: Reuters/Oswaldo Rivas/File Photo.
Sommertag had criticized the Central American country’s slide away from democracy.
“[The Holy See] is convinced that such a serious, unjustified and unilateral measure does not reflect the feelings of the Nicaraguan people, who are deeply Christian,” the Vatican said in a statement.
It was the latest in a series of actions taken against Sommertag by the Ortega government.
In November, Ortega stripped Sommertag of his title and role as dean of the diplomatic corps, in what diplomats saw as retaliation for comments by local church leaders critical of the government.
In many countries with a Catholic tradition, the position of dean is automatically filled by the Vatican envoy, known as the nuncio, regardless of the length of his stay in the country.
Sommertag, a 54-year-old Pole, openly supported the local Church in its position of defending democracy in the country.
Ortega, a former Cold War-era Marxist guerrilla leader who has been in office since 2007, won a fourth consecutive term in November after jailing political rivals ahead of an election widely condemned as not being free.
Nicaragua’s Catholic Bishops’ Conference issued a statement ahead of the elections that the country lacked “basic and indispensable conditions to hold free, fair and transparent elections.”
The Archdiocese of Managua had also denounced what it called the systematic violation of political and constitutional rights as well as “threats against the Catholic Church [and] offenses against its priests and its bishops”.