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Home World News Washington Post World News Nicaraguans peacefully celebrate mass after procession ban

Nicaraguans peacefully celebrate mass after procession ban

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MEXICO CITY — Hundreds of Nicaraguans attended a mass Saturday under heavy police presence after the government banned a religious procession in the capital amid tensions with the Roman Catholic Church.

Church leaders announced a day earlier that the National Police had banned the planned procession for Our Lady of Fatima for “internal security” reasons. Instead, the church called on the faithful to come to the cathedral peacefully.

On Saturday, Cardinal Leopoldo Brenes said they met “with great happiness, but also with great sadness” because of “the situation in which we have lived in our parishes”.

“Forgive them, Lord, for they know not what they do,” said Brenes.

Earlier this month, the administration of President Daniel Ortega shut down seven church-owned radio stations and announced an investigation into Bishop Rolando Álvarez, who has been detained by police for nearly two weeks in the church building in Matagalpa.

The government accuses Álvarez, an outspoken government critic, of inciting hatred and inciting violence.

Before detaining Álvarez, police surrounded a priest in Sebaco, also part of the Diocese of Matagalpa, for several days before finally allowing him to leave.

On Saturday, a representative of the Diocese of Matagalpa presented Brenes with an image of the Lady of Fatima.

On Friday, the Vatican made its first public statement about recent actions against the church in Nicaragua.

The Vatican’s permanent observer to the Organization of American States expressed concern during a special session of the body’s permanent council. Monsignor Juan Antonio Cruz called for “finding ways of understanding based on mutual respect and trust, and above all seeking the common good and peace.”

During the session, 27 countries passed a resolution condemning “the forced closure of non-governmental organizations and the intimidation and arbitrary restrictions on religious organizations” in Nicaragua. There was one vote against and four abstentions.

Police have not allowed large public gatherings since September 2018, except those sponsored by the government or the ruling Sandinista National Liberation Front party. Earlier that year, in April, massive street protests turned a call for Ortega to resign.

Ortega has maintained that it was an attempted coup, carried out with foreign support and the support of the Church. Since then, his government has resisted voices of dissent, including opposition political leaders and more than 1,000 non-governmental organizations.



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