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Cardinal in Nicaragua pleads for help from Western countries

NICARAGUA
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In midst of intensifying clash between protesters and government, prelate seeks pressure on Ortega

The Catholic archbishop of Managua, Nicaragua, has issued an appeal for Western governments to put pressure on the government of President Daniel Ortega to respect the Church, which is in the middle of a clash between protesters and the Sandinista government.

“Please put pressure on the government, urging it to show respect for the bishops, the priests and the population,” pleaded Cardinal Leopoldo José Brenes Solorzano, archbishop of Managua, according to Aid to the Church in Need.

Cardinal Brenes said the Nicaraguan city Masaya, which has become the de facto headquarters of the opposition, has been besieged “by over 1000 soldiers and police” for the past week.

“So far no deaths have been recorded, but undoubtedly there will be numerous injured victims,” the cardinal said. “The town has been submerged under a wave of bullets. … It is an extremely difficult moment for the whole country.”

Cardinal Brenes also called on the people of Masaya and other areas under siege to remain in their homes in order to prevent further casualties.

On July 9 the cardinal himself was assaulted by paramilitary personnel in the Basilica of San Sebastian in Diriamba, along with his auxiliary bishop, José Silvio Baez, and the apostolic nuncio, Archbishop Waldemar Stanisław Sommertag. A week later, Bishop Abelardo Mata escaped an armed attack attributed to paramilitary forces.

Cardinal Brenes appears undaunted.

“Hearing the appeal by Pope Francis to be a ‘field hospital,’ many of our parishes have given shelter to those seeking safety and help to the injured,” he said. “Undoubtedly this has not pleased the government. Just as it has not been pleased by our efforts in trying to dismantle these paramilitary groups.”

Indeed, in a speech on Thursday Ortega denounced the church, accusing the bishops of working to overthrow his elected government and even of using some churches to hide arms, according to the New York Times:

“I thought they were mediators, but no,” he said. “They were committed to the coup-plotters, they were part of the plan with the coup-plotters.”

He has refused a proposal by the bishops to move up the 2021 elections to next year, and has branded the opposition as terrorists.

The cardinal asked Catholics in the West to “join in a chain of prayer” for Nicaragua.

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