The bubble of Monsignor Sócrates Sándigo in León

The bubble of Monsignor Sócrates Sándigo in León

Flanked by the flags of Nicaragua, the Sandinista Front, and the Catholic Church, the bishop of the diocese of León and Chinandega, Monsignor Sócrates René Sándigo, poses with Mayor Róger Gurdián. His smiling face celebrates the inauguration of the new front garden of León’s cathedral, a work by the Sandinista mayor’s office to beautify the mother temple of the city. Meanwhile, in the diocese of Matagalpa, the same regime that guards Sándigo keeps Bishop Rolando Álvarez kidnapped in the episcopal curia and three other priests are in prisons in different parts of the country.

But Monsignor Sándigo remains indifferent, he does not say a word about the repressive escalation of the regime Sandinista against the Church. Instead, he gets up from his chair to cut the ribbon, which was placed on August 12 by workers from the municipality, to inaugurate the cathedral’s garden. He smiles while he is applauded by merchants from the central market and another religious brings him a pan with holy water so that he can bless them.

Contrary to what is happening in the north of the country, where the regime has closed dozens of catholic radio stations Y besiege the temples in Matagalpa, Ciudad Darío, Sébaco, and Mulukukú, in the Diocese of the West a festive atmosphere prevails. It is the eve of the celebration of the traditional Gritería Chiquita and the authorities are working hard to guarantee a great celebration in the city’s Juan José Quezada square. The Police, who in Managua harass those attending the Marian Congress, in the West accompany the pilgrims to the Cerro Negro volcano with an image of the Virgin Mary.

The flags of the Sandinista Front, Nicaragua and the Church were placed on the back door of the León cathedral. //Photo: Mayor’s Office of León

The silence of Monsignor Sándigo makes government authorities. The president of the Supreme Court of Justice, Alba Luz Ramos, originally from León, punctually attends the solemn mass on August 14. She sits in the front row next to Mayor Gurdián. Both cross themselves, listen attentively to the bishop’s sermon and after taking communion they leave the temple minutes before the popular celebration begins.

In his homilies, Monsignor Sándigo never talks about the problems that overwhelm society, the helplessness of the unemployed and massive migration. He does not mention the violations of the human rights of Nicaraguans, nor the religious persecution that exists in the country. However, sermons and statements that he gave when he was still bishop of the diocese of Juigalpa, Chontales, prevail in the collective memory, in which he made clear his sympathy with the Sandinista regime.

On May 8, 2018, for example, during the 38th anniversary of the apparitions of the Virgin Mary in Cuapa, the then Bishop of Juigalpa criticized during his homily the role of mediator of the Catholic Church in the massive protests against the Ortega regime.

“Forgive us mother for being the cause of this violence and for inciting violence, because we have also sinned by inciting violence when our role should have been as mediators, appeasers and promoters of dialogue and peace,” he said then. bishop. Days later he pointed out that his words were taken out of context.

Two years earlier, in October 2016, Sándigo provoked a controversy for some statements he gave to official propaganda media, in which he claimed that the members of the Anticanal Peasant Movement were manipulated by leaders of the former Sandinista Renovation Movement (MRS).

Bishop’s Silence

Faced with the new escalation of repression against the Church, Bishop Sándigo has only signed a pronouncement of the Episcopal Conference of Nicaragua (CEN) in which the Catholic leaders expressed their “episcopal brotherhood, friendship and communion” to the Bishop of Matagalpa, who is detained in the episcopal curia and is being pressured by the Sandinista regime to leave the country under threat of imprisonment.

Together with Monsignor Álvarez, the priests José Luis Díaz and Sadiel Eugarrios, first and second vicar of the cathedral of San Pedro, respectively, are also held in the curia; Óscar Escoto, parish priest of the Santa María de Guadalupe church; Ramiro Tijerino, rector of the John Paul II University and in charge of the San Juan Bautista parish; Raúl González, the seminarians Darvin Leyva and Melkin Sequeira and the cameraman, Sergio Cárdenas.

The bubble of Monsignor Sócrates Sándigo in León
The president of the Supreme Court of Justice, Alba Luz Ramos, taking communion on August 14. //Photo: Mayor’s Office of León

This August 15, Monsignor Sándigo does not say anything about the harassment and imprisonment Nicaraguan bishops and priests. His homily seems to have been extracted from another context, one in which he speaks in an abstract way about the love of God and the Assumption of the Virgin Mary.

“God is close, he is among us and the virgin leaves, but he stays. She is assumed, but she manifests in that image the loving presence of God, in his motherhood, in his sweetness. Therefore, we have to leave confident that we are not making paths alone, that the Lord goes with us, the virgin goes”, exclaimed the bishop.

Sándigo has also not spoken about the imprisonments that the regime of Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo has carried out against the priests. Manuel Garciafrom Nandaime; Leonard Urbina, from Boaco; Y Oscar Benavidezfrom Mulukuku. The first was accused of an alleged assault against a woman, the second for the rape of a minor and the third is under investigation. However, independent jurists question that due process has been failed in all these processes.

Also the parish priest Vicente Martínez, of the Santa Lucía parish, in Ciudad Darío, Matagalpa, remains under police siege, to the point that the vicar Sebastián López had to celebrate mass behind the perimeter fence of the temple. But none of this is talked about in the diocese of León.

His arrival in Leon

Monsignor Sándigo Jirón, 57, assumed the diocese of León on August 24, 2019, in a sober act, without surprises, and so measured, that it seemed that everyone in attendance was following a script. There was not a single excess of affection. So restrained that it seemed that the Leonese premiered a bishop one day yes, and the other too.

Sándigo was received by a small group of priests and parishioners in Nagarote, from there he continued in a caravan —aboard his truck— to the parish of Our Lady of Guadalupe, in León, where they were waiting for him to the rhythm of war bands, rockets and the talán, talán, tolón, tolón of the bells.

The bubble of Monsignor Sócrates Sándigo in León
Monsignor Sócrates Sándigo handing out sweets during the Gritería Chiquita on August 14. //Photo: Diocese of León.

His route from the church to the cathedral was closely watched by the sanctioned General Commissioner Ramón Avellán, deputy director of the regime’s Police, and the Senior Commissioner Fidel Domínguez, police chief of León. Both have been pointed out by national and international organizations as serious violations of the human rights of citizens.

The police accompaniment generated criticism of the Bishop from those who point out their complacency with the dictatorship of Daniel Ortega. “Today it is not easy to be a priest, it is not easy to be a bishop. Today they beat you for one thing and for another. If you return to this side, the one on this side criticizes you; and if you see this side again, the one on this side criticizes you. Let’s put up with the fuse”, Sándigo complained during his homily upon his arrival in León. Since then he continues without referring to the police repression that today persecutes the Catholic Church.

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