They denounce the arrest of at least six priests in Nicaragua

MANAGUA.- At least eleven priests were arrested since December 20 in Nicaragua, including a bishop, in the midst of strong tension between the Catholic Church and dictator Daniel Ortega, according to humanitarian activists, opponents and Nicaraguan media in exile.

Among the latest detainees are Monsignors Silvio Fonseca, family vicar of the Archdiocese of Managua; Miguel Mántica, from the San Francisco church, also in the capital; and Marcos Díaz, from the diocese of León (northwest), according to these sources.

Priests Gerardo Rodríguez, Mykel Monterrey and Raúl Zamora, who provide religious services in churches in Managua, were also detained, said Nicaraguan media published in Costa Rica.

These arrests are in addition to those of Bishop Isidoro Mora and two seminarians on December 20, which were followed in the last week by those of the Vicar General of Managua Carlos Avilés and the priests Héctor Treminio, Fernando Calero and Pablo Villafranca.

The list of the eleven arrested was provided by lawyer Martha Molina, an expert on issues of the Nicaraguan Church, exiled in the United States.

Last Wednesday, the vice president and wife of Daniel Ortega, Rosario Murillo, called “devils” the religious people who, according to her, sow “hatred” in the country.

Fierce hunt against the Catholic Church

Bishop Silvio Báez, who left Nicaragua in 2019, denounced the “persecution” against the Church and asked for the solidarity of the bishops of the world.

“This week the Sandinista dictatorship has unleashed a fierce hunt against priests, taking several of them to prison, in addition to two bishops who were already imprisoned,” he said on the social network X (formerly Twitter).

Báez asked the episcopal conferences of the world not to “abandon” the Church of Nicaragua, “to show solidarity and raise their voices denouncing this persecution of the dictatorship.”

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The Salvadoran-Spanish José María Tojeira, spokesman for the Jesuits in Central America, said in X that the “persecutors” of the Church always end in failure.

“By hitting the Church they are doing nothing more than digging their own destruction,” he said.

The Jesuit order was closed in August in Nicaragua and its university confiscated by the government.

Media such as La Prensa, Confidencial and 100% Noticias, which are published in Costa Rica, cited in their complaint ecclesiastical sources, lawyers Molina and Yonarqui Martínez and human rights activist Haydée Castillo, all in exile.

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“Forced disappearance”

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights condemned on Thursday the “forced disappearance” of Bishop Mora and the “new wave of arrests of religious” in Nicaragua.

With Mora, 53 years old, there are now two bishops detained.

Rolando Álvarez, 57, was sentenced on February 10 to 26 years for treason, spreading false news and contempt, a day after he refused to leave for the United States along with 222 expelled imprisoned opponents.

Álvarez has preferred prison to exile and was not among the 12 priests released in October and sent to Rome following an agreement between the regime and the Vatican.

The relationship between the Church and the regime deteriorated amid the 2018 protests, after Ortega accused religious people of supporting the opponents.

The protests left more than 300 dead, according to UN data.

An investigation by Molina maintains that since 2018 there have been 740 attacks against the Church and that 176 priests and nuns were expelled, banished or prohibited from entering the country.