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Nicaragua: Jesuit Community Expelled From Managua Residence

After closing the Jesuit-run Central American University (UCA) in Managua in mid-August, Nicaraguan authorities have expelled a community of Jesuit priests from their private residence close to the university.

In a press release dated 19 August, the Conference of Jesuit Provincials of Latin America and the Caribbean (CPAL) said the community was ordered by the police to leave Villa Carmen, their personal residence, despite showing documents proving that the building was not part of the university, but a private property belonging to the Jesuits.

The Jesuit priests are safe and now hosted in the Centro San Ignacio in the Nicaraguan capital.  

Confiscation of the Central American University

The expulsion is the latest incident in the crackdown of Daniel Ortega’s regime against the Catholic Church and the opposition.

On 16 August, the Nicaraguan authorities confiscated the prestigious Jesuit Central American University (UCA), which was a hub for anti-government protests in 2018, alleging that it was a “centre of terrorism”. 

In a statement issued last week, the Central America Conference of Provincials of Society of Jesus denounced that the “new government aggression” against the Jesuit university “is not an isolated incident”, but part “of a series of unjustified attacks on educational and social institutions that are generating a climate of violence and insecurity”.

Solidarity from Jesuits and other religious orders worldwide

Jesuit communities worldwide have joined in condemning the actions of the Nicaraguan government.

In its press release, the Conference of Jesuit Provincials of Latin America and the Caribbean said the expulsion is the latest “spectacle” against truth and human rights in the country.

For its part, the Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States said that it is “alarmed and troubled” by the seizures, but also by the “unjust” and false accusations the Nicaraguan authorities has leveled against the university and the order, calling them terrorists.

The Superior General of the Society of Jesus, Father Arturo de Sosa, SJ, has also joined in expressing solidarity with the Jesuits in Nicaragua while appealing for “paths of dialogue”.

Members of the Confederation of Latin American and Caribbean Religious gathered in Guatemala City for a human trafficking seminar, on 18-20 August, have been praying daily for the Jesuits as well as other members of Catholic religious communities in Nicaragua, particularly since the problem hits close to home.

Some of its members, including at least four communities of women religious, have been expelled from the country, their properties confiscated, leaving their work with the poor unfinished.

Appeals for the liberation of Bishop Rolando Álvarez

The closure of UCA and the expulsion of the Jesuits from their residence come a year after the arrest of Bishop Rolando Álvarez of the Northern diocese of Matagalpa, on 19 August 2022, who was subsequently sentenced to over 26 years in jail for high treason, undermining national integrity and spreading false news. and is currently detained in a high security prison in Managua.

Over the past months several organizations have appealed for his liberation. The appeal was reiterated last week by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) and the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights for Anglophone Central America and the Caribbean (OHCHR – the acronym in Spanish).

Ongoing crackdown against the Church in Nicaragua

Relations between President Daniel Ortega’s Sandinista regime and the Catholic Church in Nicaragua have plummeted since the Nicaraguan authorities clamped down on protests against a series of controversial reforms to the social security system in 2018, with Ortega accusing the bishops of plotting to overthrow him.

Since then, the Church has been the target harassment and intimidations, and of several attacks and desecrations.

In 2019, Managua Auxiliary Bishop Silvio José Báez was forced to leave the Arcdiocese, after receiving several death threats, and is presently living in the United States.

In 2022, the Apostolic Nuncio to Nicaragua, Polish Archbishop Waldemar Stanislaw Sommertag, was expelled as “persona non grata”, and in April this year, the Holy See closed its nunciature in Managua, after the Nicaraguan government proposed suspending diplomatic relations.

Source : Vatican News