Nicaraguan bishops to pray for exorcism as violence continues

IMAGE: CNS photo/Oswaldo Rivas, Reuters


Nicaragua (CNS) — As attacks on Catholic clergy continue and anti-government
protesters are besieged by Nicaraguan police and paramilitaries, the bishops
said they would pray an exorcism prayer.

bishops said July 20 would be a day of prayer and fasting “as an act of
atonement for the profanation carried out in recent months against God.”
On that day, “We will pray the prayer of exorcism to St. Michael Archangel.”

July 15, the vehicle of Bishop Juan Mata Guevara of Esteli was shot as he
traveled to the city of Nindiri, where he had hoped to stop an attack by police
and paramilitaries. The bishop escaped unharmed but the vehicle’s tires were
shot out and windows broken, said Father Victor Rivas, executive secretary of
the Nicaraguan bishops’ conference.

attack July 14 at the nearby National Autonomous University of Nicaragua campus
in Managua left two students dead and injured 15 more. Some of the fleeing
protesters sought shelter in Divine Mercy Church, where the injured were being
treated, but armed assailants stopped ambulances from reaching the church.

Washington Post reporter was among those trapped in the parish, which churchmen
said had been “profaned,” and pictures posted to social media showed the
church had been pockmarked by bullets.

are shooting at a church,” Father Erick Alvarado Cole, a pastor at the
parish, told The Washington Post. “The government says it respects human
rights. Is this respecting human rights?”

July 9, Cardinal Leopoldo Brenes Solorzano of Managua and his auxiliary, Bishop
Silvio Jose Baez, and Archbishop Waldemar Stanislaw Sommertag, the apostolic
nuncio, were among clergy from Managua pummeled as they attempted to protect
St. Sebastian Basilica in the city of Diriamba from an incursion by a
pro-government mob. Bishop Baez and at least one other priest were injured.
Journalists also were attacked and had cameras and other equipment stolen.

recent days, the repression and violence carried out by the pro-government
paramilitaries against the people who protest civically has gotten worse. …
Today, like never before, human rights are being violated in Nicaragua,”
the bishops’ July 14 statement said. “Members of the national dialogue”
— convened by the bishops’ conference — “defenders of human rights and
independent media have been the objects of campaigns of defamation by the

rights groups put the death toll in Nicaragua at more than 350 since April 18,
when protests erupted over reforms to the Central American country’s social
security system. Protests later demanded the ouster of President Daniel Ortega,
who has dismissed proposals for early elections and repressed protests with

in Nicaragua have served as centers for treating the wounded and allowing the
work of human rights groups. Priests toll church bells to warn local
populations of the police and paramilitaries arriving.

House, known as Casa Alianza in Latin America, issued an urgent call for
donations, saying staff were forced to sleep in the shelters due to security
concerns and its homes had to buy months of supplies such as food and medicines
in advance. Casa Alianza works with homeless and trafficked children.

their statement, the bishops said brokering a deal through dialogue has proved

have been witnesses to a lack of political will of the government to dialogue
in a sincere way and look for real processes that will lead us to a true
democracy” and not carrying out “the urgent dismantling of the armed
pro-government forces,” the bishops’ statement said. “Government
representatives have twisted the principal objective for which the national
dialogue was established.”

Catholic analyst in Nicaragua, who preferred not to be named for security
reasons, said the dialogue has been interpreted as an attempt by Ortega and his
wife, Vice President Rosario Murillo, to buy time. The bishops also run the
risk of being blamed for the collapse of the talks if they withdraw as
mediators, the analyst said.

government) and vice president have been appropriating religious language for
some time and now are saying the government is doing God’s work,” the
analyst told CNS.

bishops said they would continue working as mediators, but their role goes
beyond sitting at the negotiating table.

the prophetic dimension of our ministry we have seen the urgency of going to
the places of conflict to defend the lives of the defenseless, to bring comfort
to the victims and mediate with the goal of a peaceful solution to the
situation,” the bishops said. “The Nicaraguan church will continue to
use all of the means it is able to. Our mission as pastors and prophets does
not contradict our role as mediators and witnesses given that what we seek is
peace and justice as Nicaraguans.”

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