Nicaraguan president calls church a ‘mafia organization’ and bans public processions of the cross

The Nicaraguan Church is not allowed to hold public Stations of the Cross this year. On Ash Wednesday, Daniel Ortega’s government announced the ban. This time the ritual will be held inside the churches during Lent and Good Friday.

According to the processions news agency C.N.A Banned for security reasons. However, it is widely seen as a further extension of the relationship between the Nicaraguan government and the Catholic Church.

Mafia organization

A day earlier, in a speech on the memorial day of national hero Augusto Santino, Ortega accused the Catholic Church of being a “mafia organization.”

According to him, the Church has supported dictators like Somoza and Mussolini in the past. He also seriously questioned the democratic processes of the Church Vatican news. He argued that the Pope should be elected “by direct vote” and “not by the organized mafia in the Vatican”.

Papal Unity

This direct attack on the Pope appears to be in response to the Pope’s public solidarity with Bishop Rolando Alvarez of Matagalpa, who was recently sentenced to 26 years in prison, and 222 exiled political opponents from Nicaragua who now live in the United States.

On February 12, the Pope said to pray for all these people and called on the faithful to do the same.

Deteriorated relationship

Since a wave of anti-government protests in Nicaragua in 2018, relations between the Ortega government and the Nicaraguan church have deteriorated. According to human rights groups, the church helped injured protesters during the protests, which killed at least 328 people.

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Nicaraguan bishops still tried to mediate between the demonstrators and the regime. Ortega eventually banned this.

The strained relationship led to several attacks on the church in the country. This has ranged from the destruction of art in churches to arrests, imprisonment and exile of clergy.

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