Priest arrested, others barred from celebrating Marian as Ortega regime paints church as enemy
The old cathedral of Managua. (Photo: Wikipedia)
Three police patrols arrested a Nicaraguan priest in his parish on August 14, in the latest case of government crackdown on the Catholic Church.
On the same day, two other priests said they were prevented from going to Matagalpa Cathedral for a Marian celebration.
A source told Catholic News Service that patrols stopped Father Oscar Benavidez as he was driving to celebrate Mass at a chapel in Mulukukú, and he was taken to the capital, Managua.
“We do not know the causes or reasons for his detention,” the Diocese of Siuna said in a statement the same day. “We expect the authorities to keep us informed.”
A Nicaraguan Catholic Church source who knows Father Benavidez said the detained priest was from the Diocese of Matagalpa, but worked in the Diocese of Siuna.
Bishop Rolando Álvarez de Matagalpa has been locked up in the offices of the diocesan curia since August 4 with six priests and five lay Catholics, besieged by the police.
“Father Oscar is paying the price for his innocence,” said the source, who requested anonymity for security reasons. “They will make up lies to accuse him,” the source added. “Things are believed to be calming down and another wave of persecution is hitting us.”
Persecution of Catholic priests in Nicaragua has intensified as President Daniel Ortega’s regime portrays the Church as a political enemy. Vice President Rosario Murillo, wife of Ortega, accused the prelates of promoting “terrorist acts”.
The crackdown halted the church’s charitable and educational projects, and even the Missionaries of Charity of Mother Teresa were expelled from the country. The government’s actions hampered the freedom of worship of Catholics and interrupted processions and celebrations of the Eucharist.
A replica of Our Lady of Fatima has been taken to parishes in Nicaragua since arriving from Portugal in January 2020. The tour concluded on August 13 in the capital, Managua, with images blessed by Cardinal Leopoldo Brenes of Managua sent to each of the country’s dioceses. .
The Archdiocese of Managua said national police, citing “internal security” concerns, banned a procession for the sending of the replicas.
Father Erick Díaz, parish priest of St. Joseph Worker in the El Tuma community, had planned to go to Matagalpa Cathedral for the celebration of the arrival of the aftershock on August 14. Father Díaz said via the parish’s Facebook page that the police banned him from traveling and also turned away people wishing to attend the Marian celebration.
Another priest from the Diocese of Matagalpa, Father Fernando Calero, said via social media that he was prevented from going to the Cathedral of Matagalpa; the police kept his driver’s license and documents allowing him to drive a vehicle.
The media showed an overflowing crowd for the arrival of the image of Fatima at the Cathedral of Matagalpa.