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Human Rights

Nicaraguans celebrate mass despite procession ban and church crackdown 

Daniel Ortega’s government banned the catholic procession for Our Lady of Fatima scheduled for last Saturday citing “internal security reasons"

August 15, 2022 6:12am

Updated: August 15, 2022 11:57am

Hundreds of Nicaraguans attended mass despite a heavy police presence this weekend after the government prohibited a religious procession in the capital amid a crackdown on the Roman Catholic church in the country. 

Daniel Ortega’s government banned the catholic procession for Our Lady of Fatima scheduled for last Saturday citing “internal security reasons.” 

“The National Police have advised us that for reasons of internal security the procession scheduled for 7 a.m. this Aug. 13, an activity planned on the occasion of the Marian Congress and conclusion of the pilgrimage of the image of Our Lady of Fatima in national territory, is not permitted,” the archdiocese said in a statement.

Church leaders, instead, called for people to go peacefully to the cathedral to have a large-scale mass, where they gathered “with a lot of happiness, but also with a lot of sadness,” according to Cardinal Leopoldo Brenes. 

The measure comes as Daniel Ortega’s government has been relentlessly cracking down on NGOs and groups, viewing them as opposed to the regime. The Ortega regime claims the groups receive funding from abroad to conspire to remove him from office.

Earlier this month, seven radio stations run by the Roman Catholic Church in Nicaragua were closed down. The government also announced that Matagalpa Bishop Rolando Alvarez was being placed under investigation for promoting hate and inciting violence. Rolando, an outspoken critic of the Ortega regime, will not be allowed to leave the church compound during the investigation, authorities said. 

The Vatican’s permanent observer to the Organization of American States expressed concern about the Nicaraguan government’s recent actions during a special session of the body’s permanent council.

Monsignor Juan Antonio Cruz called for “finding paths of understanding based on reciprocal respect and trust, looking above all for the common good and peace.”

This year alone, Nicaragua has closed more than 200 institutions. In addition, the government announced that an additional 100 groups might also be forced to shut down soon.

Ortega has been widely criticized for the November 2021 presidential elections, when he was elected as president for the fourth consecutive term. Ahead of the elections, the regime arrested more than 46 opposition leaders and six presidential candidates.