Cardinal Leopoldo Brenes traveled this Saturday afternoon, October 29, to the Vatican City, in Rome, where he will hold two private audiences with Pope Francis and will participate in meetings with the Latin American Episcopal Council (CELAM).
The Archbishop of Managua’s trip takes place at a time when the Daniel Ortega regime is holding hostage the bishop of the Diocese of Matagalpa and apostolic administrator of the Diocese of Estelí, Monsignor Rolando José Álvarez, eight priests and two seminarians, as part of an escalation of repression against the Catholic Church in Nicaragua. In addition, on March 6 of this year, the government expelled the apostolic nuncio Waldemar Sommertag from the country.
Cardinal Brenes has been the only interlocutor who has been able to talk with Monsignor Rolando Alvarezsince last August 5 when the regime Police made his house arrest official in the Matagalpa curia and after his kidnapping on the morning of August 19.
Brenes met with Monsignor Álvarez, at his home in Managua, where he is under house arrest, and stated in a statement that his “physical condition is deteriorating,” but his “heart and spirit are strong.” Álvarez expressed his confidence in everyone’s prayers in the face of the “difficult situation we are experiencing in ecclesial communion.”
The Pope’s Dialogue Proposal
Regarding this repressive escalation suffered by the Catholic Church in Nicaragua and the human rights crisis in this country, Pope Francis declared on September 15 that “there is dialogue with Nicaragua” and that the Vatican has spoken with the government of Daniel Ortega.
“In Nicaragua the news is clear, there is dialogue, there has been talks with the government. There is dialogue, but this does not mean that everything the government does is approved or disapproved, ”said the pontiff during a press conference aboard the papal plane on his return to Rome after his trip to Kazakhstan.
The pope assured that “there are problems and they must be solved” and wished that they can return to the country the missionaries of charity, a congregation founded by Mother Teresa of Calcutta and which was outlawed in Nicaragua last July. The 18 missionaries who were kicked out of the country “are revolutionaries, but revolutionaries of the Gospel and women like them are needed,” Francis said.
“There are things that are not understood, that are not assimilated, but dialogue must never be stopped,” the pope added, after describing the expulsion of the nuncio from Nicaragua as “incomprehensible.” Waldemar Stanislaw Sommertagwho is “a good man who has now been appointed in another country.”
The regime of Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo has not yet ruled on the Pope’s call for dialogue.
Brenes summoned for the second time
Last August Cardinal Brenes was summoned by Pope Francis to attend a meeting, in which almost 300 cardinals from around the world participated, to reflect on the new apostolic Constitution. However, the Nicaraguan cardinal was unable to participate due to the illness of his mother, Lilliam Solórzano, who died on September 29.
In less than four years, the Nicaraguan Catholic Church has been the target of 190 attacks, including the fire in the Managua cathedral in August 2020 and police harassment against bishops and priests. The situation only continues to worsen.
The Ortega regime has also closed down a dozen radio and television channels that belonged to the Catholic Church, expelled 18 Missionaries of Charity from the country, and intensified the siege and persecution of religious leaders.