The Nicaraguan Bishops will meet today to discuss whether and how to continue the national dialogue in which they are participating as mediators and witnesses. While there is hope that talks may resume, as called for by Pope Francis through the Apostolic Nuncio, this prospect is actually hampered not just by increasing repression by the government and targeted attacks on churches, but also by the words President Daniel Ortega spoke last Thursday on the occasion of the National Day on 19 July, when he made strong accusations against the Bishops qualifying them as “coup plotters”. Yesterday, coinciding with the prayer for Nicaragua sponsored by the Latin American Episcopal Council (CELAM) across the continent, the Auxiliary Archbishop of Managua, Mgr. Silvio José Báez, celebrated the Sunday Eucharist in the Church of Saint Michael the Archangel. After Mass, talking with reporters, he made some remarks relayed by the Nicaraguan independent press about Mr Ortega’s words: “The President speaks as a politician, for his followers and supporters – the Bishop said -, and his words have to be interpreted in this context. Regardless of his words, we are willing to continue working for dialogue, but it is important for us not to feel de-authorised”. Mgr. Báez, however, used strong words to respond to the accusations by the President that the churches attacked by pro-government forces had been used to stockpile weapons. “This statement is absolutely false, no attack has been launched from our churches, and we do not use them to store weapons. This is groundless smear against the Church”. The prelate stressed that both Mr Ortega’s words and repression by government forces make the resumption of talks difficult, but this objective problems “do not stop” the bishops from doing all they can. Mgr. Báez then called yesterday’ s continental prayer a sign of “unity and fraternity”. In his homily, he said: “We Bishops may be smeared and physically attacked to death. But our response will always be evangelical and peaceful, we will pray for those who do us harm and always forgive them with the help of Jesus”. And he went on to say: “The Catholic Church in Nicaragua is suffering from the pain of her people and will always remain at their side, as Jesus has always remained at the side of those suffering the most”.
«La Iglesia católica de Nicaragua sufre el dolor del pueblo y siempre permanecerá a su lado, como Jesús que siempre estuvo al lado de los más sufridos» (De mi homilía dominical hoy en la parroquia San Miguel Arcángel de Managua. Foto de @navax1969) pic.twitter.com/843vcbrhOg
— Silvio José Báez (@silviojbaez) July 22, 2018
Many people took to the streets of Managua yesterday to express their support for the Catholic Church. This despite repression and intimidation by paramilitaries continuing over the weekend in several cities, including Granada, Rivas, Matagalpa, Jinotega, Masaya, Carazo, Chinandega, Chontales, León and Estelí. In Jinotega, for instance, the Diocese reported the desecration of a chapel dedicated to Our Lady of Mount Carmel, which is yet another attack on the Church.