More than 150 political leaders in Nicaragua are currently in prison, at the direct order of President Daniel Ortega. Processions are also being prohibited.
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The sustained effort to silence dissenting voices in Nicaragua directly targets the Catholic Church once again. In less than four years, the Catholic Church in Nicaragua has gone through more than 190 attacks and desecrations, including a fire in the Managua Cathedral, the expulsion of the Missionaries of Charity, and the highly irregular, ongoing one-month-long house arrest of Bishop Rolando Álvarez, accused of “crimes against spirituality.” This weekend, processions in honor of St. Jerome and St. Michael the Archangel were prohibited for “public security reasons.”
This is not the first time the Ortega government has forbidden a procession. In mid-August, Nicaraguan Cardinal Leopoldo Brenes blessed nine images of Our Lady of Fatima that were supposed to go to each diocese in the country. A pilgrim replica of the original image has been visiting parishes in the country for the past year and a half, as part of a then-ongoing Marian Congress. Ortega’s government banned a priest from the diocese of Matagalpa from receiving the image, explaining that the planned procession of the image was not going to take place, for “internal safety reasons.” Father Erick Diaz, who was arriving to the cathedral to receive the image, was informed by the local police that he was banned from doing so. The hundreds of faithful who were going to the cathedral to venerate the image were also sent back to their homes.
Now, local processions in Masaya, a city in Western Nicaragua known as “the cradle of Nicaraguan folklore,” have been prohibited, using the same argument. The festivities of St. Jerome and St. Michael last until December, and usually bring together thousands of devotees from all over the country. This year, Ortega’s police are banning these festivities.
The Archdiocese of Managua issued a statement this last September 17 explaining the processions were denied a permit “for public security reasons.” The statement invites “all the devotees and promesantes of these patron saints to keep in mind that faith and devotion are treasures we carry in our hearts, and from there we can pay them due homage, with all the strength of our common, ancestral heritage.”
The Masses, novenas, and liturgical celebrations for both festivities will still be held, according to each parish’s schedule, in their respective churches.