The priest Óscar Danilo Benavidez, from the Holy Spirit Church of Mulukukú, in the North Caribbean of Nicaragua, was arrested on the afternoon of this Sunday, August 14, by agents of the National Police, according to ecclesiastical sources.
Benavidez was taken out of his vehicle and put on a police patrol to an unknown destination, according to the sources. The priest was leaving to celebrate a mass in the parish of La Asunción, when he was intercepted by three patrols full of riot police.
The arrest of the priest occurs in the midst of a series of actions by the Government of Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo against the Nicaraguan Catholic Church, which includes the police kidnapping of Monsignor Rolando José Álvarez, bishop of the Diocese of Matagalpa, together with five priests, three seminarians and two lay people. The Police accuse them, without evidence, of trying to organize “violent groups”.
Also, this Sunday, the National Police prevented two priests from the Matagalpa municipalities of Rancho Grande and El Tuma, travel to the Cathedral of San Pedro, in Matagalpa, to participate in the reception of the image of the Virgin of Fatima. One of them was visited at his parish to inform him of the ban, and the other was returned on the El Tuma-La Dalia highway.
Added to these actions is the expulsion of a group of missionaries from the Mother Teresa of Calcutta order, the closure of eight Catholic radio stations, the exclusion of three Catholic channels from subscription television programming, and the forced entry and raid on a parish.
Third imprisoned priest
If the arrest was made official, Benavidez would become the third priest imprisoned by the Ortega regime: in June he arrested the parish priest of Nandaime Manuel Garciaand in July to Monsignor Leonardo Urbina of Boaco.
Garcia was accused of allegedly assaulting a woman, and Urbina of allegedly raping a teenage girl. Both have faced trials considered, by independent experts, as examples of processes without guarantees, while the Executive has intensified the hate speech against the priests, whom they accuse of conspiring in an alleged “coup” d’état as they call the demonstrations of 2018.
In his homily this Sunday, the auxiliary bishop of Managua, Monsignor Silvio José Báez, said that “tyrants cannot bear the prophetic word that exposes their evil and their crimes.”
“The powerful today fear a prophetic Church, they would like to see the Church locked up in the sacristy, with its mouth closed and hopefully bowed before them. Failing to do so, they are filled with rage with aggressive speeches with which they do nothing more than show their own weakness and the darkness of their conscience, but everything is useless”, Báez preached.