Catholic churchgoers in Nicaragua are feeling hopeful after the ordination of nine new priests took place without any altercations during this year’s Epiphany service in the diocese of Managua.
The area’s Archbishop, Cardinal Leopoldo Brenes, conducted the service, expressing gratitude to God for the "wonderful gift" of the new priests. He also emphasized their role as "servants" and "witnesses," calling them to "live communion and fraternity".
These ordinations are being perceived as a breath of fresh air amidst a challenging time for Catholics in the Central American country. In December alone, at least 14 priests, two seminarians, and the Bishop of Siuna, Isidoro del Carmen Mora Ortega, were arrested.
Bishop Mora Ortega was detained after praying for the Bishop of Matagalpa, Father Rolando José Álvarez Lagos, who has been in prison since last February, after having been sentenced to 26 years, on treason charges.
The plight of the church in Nicaragua was acknowledged by Pope Francis during his homily on January 8th. He said: “The situation in Nicaragua also remains worrying; it’s a crisis that has been going on for a long time with painful consequences for the entire Nicaraguan society, particularly for the Catholic Church.”
He added that “the Holy See does not cease to invite diplomatic dialogue that respects the good of Catholics and of the entire population”.
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has also urged a solution to the conflict warning the country is moving "ever further" away from the rule of law and "fundamental freedoms" by persecuting "political and indigenous leaders, members of the Catholic Church, activists and journalists" with "repeated cases of arbitrary detention".
Nevertheless, the government in Nicaragua staunchly refutes any allegations of misconduct. In a recent address, Rosario Murillo, the vice president, who also happens to be married to the president, dismissed claims of church persecution in her country as "false”.
She also mentioned that if priests are arrested in Spain, the United States, or Chile, "nobody is surprised”. But,if it happens in Nicaragua, “they tear their clothes, it always happens like that."