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Nicaragua: Pope urges dialogue in Church-state crisis

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Pope Francis has called for an “open and sincere” dialogue to resolve a stand-off between the Catholic Church and the government of Nicaragua.

Pope Francis made the call while speaking to pilgrims and tourists in St. Peter’s Square for his weekly blessing.

“I would like to express my conviction and my wish that, through an open and sincere dialogue, the foundations for a respectful and peaceful coexistence can be found,” Francis said.

The Pope’s call follows the arrest of Bishop Rolando Alvarez of Matagalpa in the north of the country.

Alvarez, a critic of Ortega’s government and one of the Nicaraguan Church’s most influential figures, was whisked away during a pre-dawn raid in Matagalpa on Friday and put under house arrest in the capital, Managua.

Alvarez had been confined for two weeks in a  house in Matagalpa along with five priests, one seminarian and a cameraman for a religious television channel.

Police said the priests, the seminarian and the cameraman were taken to a prison in Managua.

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Francis, said he was following the situation in Nicaragua “with worry and pain” and asked for prayers for the country.

The United Nations expressed concern over the raid and the Organization of American States condemned it.

Nicaraguan Bishop Silvio Baez, also a critic of the government, went into exile in 2019.

This past March, the Vatican protested to Nicaragua over the effective expulsion of its ambassador, saying the unilateral action was unjustified and incomprehensible.

Archbishop Waldemar Sommertag, who had been critical of Nicaragua’s slide away from democracy, had to leave the country suddenly after the government withdrew its approval of the envoy.

The relationship between the Catholic Church and the government has been severely strained since a harsh crackdown on protests in 2018, when the Church acted as a mediator between the government and protesters.

The Church has called for justice for more than 360 people who died during the unrest.

 

Zainab Sa’id

Source Reuters
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