The authoritarian Sandinista regime of Nicaragua banned the nation’s Catholic Church from celebrating all Holy Week processions, ecclesiastical sources informed local media on Friday.
Catholics will mark Holy Week – the week containing Palm Sunday, Holy Thursday, and Good Friday preceding Easter – beginning on Palm Sunday, April 2.
Dictator Daniel Ortega has been engaging in an ongoing campaign against Christianity, and Catholicism specifically, for years, in response to the Church’s role in aiding pro-democracy dissidents and opposing his communist agenda. Nicaragua is about half Catholic and, including other denominations, 83 percent Christian.
The Ortega regime reportedly forbid the Catholic Church from carrying out its traditional Via Crucis (Stations of the Cross) processions in Nicaraguan streets, alleging “security reasons,” only permitting the Church to conduct their processions inside the premises of their corresponding churches or in the atrium of the parishes.
The regime has used the same “security” excuse to ban other Catholic processions and festivities in the past.
The celebration of the Via Crucis, a traditional Catholic procession during Holy Week that commemorates Jesus Christ’s last day on Earth prior to resurrection, had returned in Nicaragua in 2022 after a forced two-year absence following the outbreak of the Chinese coronavirus pandemic.
An unnamed member of the Catholic Church told the Nicaraguan newspaper La Prensa that after the Ash Wednesday Mass was over, members of the Nicaraguan police arrived to his church in Managua informing attendees that, due to “security reasons,” the church was not authorized to carry out the Stations of the Cross procession.
Several parish priests on condition of anonymity confirmed the information to Voice of America (VOA) on Friday.
“The suspension of the Stations of the Cross will be one of the worst blunders of the psychopaths,” a priest told VOA, referencing dictator Daniel Ortega and his wife, Rosario Murillo.
Ortega, who declared a “war” against the Vatican last September, dramatically ramped up his regime’s persecution of Catholicism in Nicaragua since 2022, arresting and banishing members of the Church, forcefully shutting down Catholic media throughout the country, and banning Nicaragua’s historic Catholic festivities.
Monsignor Rolando Álvarez, arrested in August 2022 after the Ortega regime carried out a police raid on his parish, was sentenced in February to 26 years in prison for “treason.” The priest was also stripped of his citizenship rights and Nicaraguan nationality for life, rendering him a stateless person.
Álvarez, an outspoken critic of the Ortega regime, was the first Catholic clergyman arrested by the Sandinista regime since Daniel Ortega returned to power in 2007.
Days before banning the Catholic Holy Week processions, Ortega lashed out once more against the Catholic Church, accusing the Vatican of being an “organized mafia.”
“They are a mafia, look at the crimes they have committed, how many crimes they have committed and they are still committing crimes every day and they are being crimes that they commit because they have absurd regulations,” Ortega said at an official event on February 21, “crimes that they commit in the financial field, they have a process right now in the Vatican, because they have embezzled millions, because they have always managed millions.”
In an interview given to the Nicaraguan newspaper Artículo 66 published on Friday, Nicaraguan priest Edwin Román, who has lived in exile in the United States since 2021, lamented the latest attack of the Ortega regime against the Catholic faith in Nicaragua.
“We are under a dictatorship that is persecuting the Church in all its manifestations of faith, devotions and religious traditions that are part of our faith as Catholics,” Father Román said.
The exiled priest recalled that the Sandinista regime has maintained a continued animosity towards the Catholic Church, which has firmly remained in opposition to the regime throughout its 4 decades of rule.
“Since the 80s, the persecution of the Catholic Church has existed under this dictatorship and it is getting worse and worse,” Father Román added. “We are at the limit and I don’t know what else we can expect. There are bishops in prison, they have burned images such as the blood of Christ so venerated in the cathedral, they have suppressed these processions, they have expelled religious and lay people.”
Lastly, the priest reassured that the latest actions of the Ortega regime will not stop Catholic faith in Nicaragua. “This is a time for the faithful to live this Lenten season with great intensity,” he concluded.
Christian K. Caruzo is a Venezuelan writer and documents life under socialism. You can follow him on Twitter here.
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