Nicaraguan Cardinal Leopoldo Brenes reacted over the weekend to the investigation announced by the government of President Daniel Ortega against the country’s dioceses for alleged money laundering and said that “they will continue to see how to solve” the crisis that has led to the freezing of bank accounts.
In a brief telephone interview with the voice of americaBrenes said that the priests will continue with their “evangelizing” work, however he avoided giving more details about the number of dioceses intervened by the authorities.
“That was the news that they gave me (that of the intervention of the accounts), but we will continue working. We are going to see how we solve that. I cannot tell you more things, but the evangelizing work continues,” he stressed.
The Nicaraguan Police accused the Nicaraguan Catholic Church on Saturday of “laundering money” and ordered Cardinal Brenes to present documents showing the movements of the bank accounts of the dioceses that have intervened.
According to the Police, in the framework of these investigations they found “hundreds of thousands of dollars hidden in bags located in facilities belonging to (the) dioceses” of Nicaragua.
And the money was allegedly taken “illegally” from bank account resources that had been frozen from people convicted of treason, such as Bishop Rolando Álvarez.
The extent of the freezing of bank accounts is unknown. According to website of the Episcopal Conference of Nicaragua, there are eight dioceses and one archdiocese in the country. Initially it was presumed that the frozen accounts had been two that were in charge of Bishop Álvarez.
Sociologist: Ortega seeks to “close the churches.”
According to the Nicaraguan sociologist María Teresa Blandón, this new escalation against the Catholic Church “is disproportionate”, since in her opinion no evidence was even presented “as dictators usually do.”
“I believe that this escalation in the attack on the Catholic hierarchy has to do with an inability to silence this Church. They have managed to get priests out, they have a bishop imprisoned, they have forced other priests into exile, but they know that this Church is alive and that they continue to congregate, as they demonstrated at Easter despite the prohibitions,” the expert told the VOA.
Blandón warns that this new offensive “has to do with an attempt to close the churches and prevent any type of congregation of Nicaraguan Catholics.”
During the last week, the Catholic Church reported that two priests are being investigated by the authorities for having administered a religious NGO, while another was arrested after being accused of “treason against the homeland.” Local media have also reported the desecration of temples.