The dictator of Nicaragua, former guerilla fighter President Daniel Ortega, verbally attacked Pope Francis and said that the Catholic Church is “the perfect dictatorship” during a public event Sept. 28 in Managua, the country’s capital.
In his speech marking the 43rd anniversary of the founding of the National Police, Ortega questioned: “Who elects the priests, the bishops, the pope, the cardinals, how many votes, who votes for them? If they’re going to be democratic, they must begin by electing the pope, the cardinals, the bishops, with the vote of the population, with the votes of Catholics.”
“Let the population elect them and not all of them imposed [on the people], it’s a dictatorship, the perfect dictatorship. It’s a tyranny, the perfect tyranny,” he continued.
After calling the pope a “holy tyrant,” the Nicaraguan dictator asked: “With what authority do you speak to me about democracy? How many votes did the bishop have from the population to be appointed bishop?”
This is not the first time that Ortega has publicly attacked the Catholic Church. In September 2021, he insulted the Catholic bishops, calling them “terrorists,” “demons in cassocks,” and men in “satanic cassocks.”
On that occasion, as well as in yesterday’s event, the dictator accused the bishops of being behind the 2018 protests and promoting a coup d’état against him.
Ortega’s remarks come almost two weeks after Pope Francis said that there is dialogue with the Nicaraguan government, although “right now there are problems.”
Persecution of the Church in Nicaragua
Ortega’s remarks came a day after Santa Lucía-Boaco parish in the Diocese of Granada reported that “the Nicaraguan government denied our pastor, Father Guillermo Blandón, re-entry into our country.”
The newspaper La Prensa reported Sept. 11 that the Nicaraguan Immigration and Foreigners Office prevented Father Juan de Dios García, vicar of the Santo Cristo de las Colinas parish, from returning to the country after having traveled to the United States.
On Aug. 19, the police abducted in the middle of the night the bishop of Matagalpa, Rolando Álvarez, from the chancery where he had been forcibly confined by riot police for over two weeks and took him to Managua, where he remains under house arrest.
According to local media, the prosecution has supposedly indicted him but the charges are unknown.
On Sept. 15, the European Parliament approved by a vote of 538 to 16 a resolution demanding the immediate release of the bishop.
The night Bishop Álvarez was seized, the other priests, seminarians, and a layman who were confined in the chancery with him were also taken away and are being held in the El Chipote prison, known for torturing opponents of the regime.
Those imprisoned there are Fathers Ramiro Tijerino, José Luis Diaz, Sadiel Eugarrios, and Raúl González; seminarians Darvin Leyva and Melquín Sequeira; and cameraman Sergio Cárdenas, all from the Diocese of Matagalpa.
Another priest who is being held in El Chipote is Father Oscar Benavidez of the Diocese of Siuna.
These prisoners have also reportedly been indicted but for what crimes is unknown.
In other attacks, the Ortega dictatorship expelled in March the apostolic nuncio, Archbishop Waldemar Stanislaw Sommertag.
The former auxiliary bishop of Managua, Silvio Baez, has been living in exile in the United States after it became known that Ortega’s government had very probably ordered his assassination.
In addition, the Missionaries of Charity, founded by St. Teresa of Calcutta, were expelled in July and were welcomed in neighboring Costa Rica by the bishop of Tilarán-Liberia. The Religious of the Cross of the Sacred Heart of Jesus were expelled this month and returned to Mexico, where the congregation was founded.
In fewer than four years, the Catholic Church in Nicaragua has been the target of 190 attacks and desecrations according to the investigative report “Nicaragua: A Persecuted Church? (2018-2022)” by attorney Martha Patricia Molina Montenegro, a member of the Pro-Transparency and Anti-Corruption Observatory.