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Pope’s new rep in Nicaragua asks Ortega for negotiations

Marvin Recinos | AFP
Monsignor Silvio Jose Baez speaks next to Cardinal Leopoldo Jose Brenes (C) and Papal Nuncio Stanislaw Waldemar Sommertag (L) upon arrival in Masaya, Nicaragua, on June 21, 2018.
Members of the Catholic Church arrived in the city -- which this week declared itself in rebellion to president Daniel Ortega's rule -- "to avert another massacre" as it was under "disproportionate" attack from police and paramilitary forces, who, a human rights group said, were using AK47s and Dragunov sniper rifles against civilian residents.

President rejects bishops' request for moving elections sooner, blasts their "curses and condemnation."

Archbishop Waldemar Stanisław Sommertag, the new representative of Pope Francis in Nicaragua, has expressed to President Daniel Ortega the pope’s concern at the “delicate” situation the country has been in for several months.

According to L’Osservatore Romano newspaper, Archbishop Sommertag presented his credentials to the Nicaraguan head of state on June 18. In addition to the usual greetings, he expressed the pope’s concern for the country.

Back in power since 2007 — after a first period between 1979 and 1990 — President Ortega has been facing major protests since April. More than 200 people, including police officers, have died in connection with these strongly repressed demonstrations.

The representative of Pope Francis pleaded for a “negotiated solution that will make it possible to restore social harmony.”

Ortega, for his part, thanked the prelate for the Holy See’s attention and expressed his “full confidence” in the mediation proposed by the country’s Episcopal Conference.

In this context, the prelates pleaded that the general elections be moved forward to March 2019, instead of 2021. This is “indispensable” for “viable dialogue,” according to Bishop Rolando Alvarez of Matagalpa.

This request, however, was rejected by Ortega on July 7. According to the AFP news agency, the Nicaraguan president then attacked the bishops, criticizing “those who launch curses and condemn us to death in many religious institutions.”

On July 8, Cardinal Leopoldo Brenes, archbishop of Managua, appealed to Ortega “in the name of God and the Catholic people” to “cease this action, which is causing more pain and more sadness,” reported the Catholic news agency ACIprensa. 

Appointed to the nunciature of Managua on February 15, Archbishop Sommertag received episcopal ordination from the hands of Peter’s Successor on March 19. 

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