The dictatorship of President Daniel Ortega and his wife, Vice President Rosario Murillo, in Nicaragua has banned upcoming processions in the city of Masaya in honor of Saint Michael the Archangel and Saint Jerome.
The Archdiocese of Managua said in a Sept. 17 statement that “National Police in the city of Masaya have informed the brotherhoods and pastors of the parishes of St. Michael the Archangel and St. Jerome that, for reasons of public security , processions will not be allowed for the respective festivities of that city.
The Archdiocese asked “the faithful and those who have made promises to the patron saints, to keep in mind that faith and devotion are a treasure that we carry in our hearts and from there we can make tribute with the strength of this ancestral heritage in our communities.
“Masses, novenas and liturgical celebrations typical of the two festivities will take place according to the program of each of the parishes in the respective churches,” the statement said.
The Archdiocese of Managua requested that “St. Michael the Archangel, Saint Jerome and the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church and Queen of Peace, intercede and listen to prayers [and] obtain for us healing from all ills by the medicine of God.
Persecution of the Church in Nicaragua
This is not the first time that the dictatorship has banned a Catholic procession. In August, the regime ordered that the procession in honor of Our Lady of Fatima not be organized as part of the Marian Congress.
The parish of Saint-Michel-Archange de Masaya has already been the target of the dictatorship. In 2018, paramilitary groups backed by Ortega attacked demonstrators protesting government policies. In 2019, a group of mothers and Father Edwing Román went on a hunger strike to protest the Ortega police assault on the Church and local people.
On September 15, the European Parliament adopted a resolution by 538 votes to 16 calling for the immediate release of the Bishop of Matagalpa, Rolando Álvarez, who was kidnapped by regime police from his chancery in Matagalpa in the middle of the night and taken to Managua, where he is currently under house arrest.
Currently, several priests are also detained in El Chipote, a prison in Managua known for torturing opponents of the regime: Father Oscar Benavidez of the Diocese of Siuna and Fathers Ramiro Tijerino, José Luis Diaz, Sadiel Eugarrios and Raúl González of the Diocese from Matagalpa.
Also from the diocese of Matagalpa, the dictatorship imprisoned seminarians Darvin Leyva and Melquín Sequeira and cameraman Sergio Cárdenas in El Chipote.
With the exception of Benavidez, all the others were arrested around 3 a.m. on August 19 at the chancery in Matagalpa, the same time police arrested Álvarez.
In August, the Sandinista regime forcibly shut down radio stations run by the Diocese of Matagalpa.
Other victims of persecution were the Apostolic Nuncio to Nicaragua, Bishop Waldemar Stanislaw Sommertag, who was expelled from the country in March, and the Missionaries of Charity, the congregation founded by Saint Teresa of Calcutta, who were expelled in July.
The former auxiliary bishop of Managua, Silvio Baez, has been living in exile in the United States since news emerged that Ortega’s government most likely ordered his assassination.
The persecution of the Catholic Church in Nicaragua has been increasing for years. The bishops rightly warned against the dictatorial drift of the Ortega government as early as 2014. The bishops denounced the regime’s indiscriminate use of force to suppress the opposition, starting in 2018 when it brutally suppressed protesters demanding change.
More than 350 people have died and thousands have been injured in Nicaragua as “combined forces” of regular police, riot police, paramilitaries and pro-government vigilantes attacked anti-government protests. At least eight churches were desecrated during the turmoil.
Because the Catholic Church supported the protesters’ cause, the government stepped up pressure on bishops, priests, religious and lay faithful.
Ortega, in power for 15 years, is openly hostile to the Catholic Church in the country. He alleged that the bishops were part of a coup attempt to oust him from office in 2018 because they supported anti-government protests that his regime brutally suppressed. The Nicaraguan president called the bishops “terrorists” and “devils in a cassock”.
According to a report titled “Nicaragua: A Persecuted Church? (2018-2022)”, compiled by lawyer Martha Patricia Molina Montenegro, member of the Pro-Transparency and Anti-Corruption Observatory, in less than four years the Catholic Church in Nicaragua has been the target of 190 attacks and desecrations, including a fire in the cathedral of Managua as well as police harassment and the persecution of bishops and priests.