Pope calls for end to 'needless bloodshed' in Nicaragua

IMAGE: CNS photo/Jorge Cabrera, Reuters

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Francis called for an end to
violence in Nicaragua after several days of protests against proposed social
security legislation led to the deaths of more than two dozen people.

“I express my closeness in prayer to that country and I
am united with the bishops in asking that every form of violence end, that a pointless shedding of blood be
avoided and that open issues be resolved peacefully and with a sense of
responsibility,” the pope said April 22 after praying the “Regina Coeli” prayer with
pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square.

The pope said he was “very worried about what is
happening these days in Nicaragua,” where citizens took to the streets beginning April 18
after the government announced changes to the nation’s social security system.

The proposed overhaul, which would have increased pension
contributions while reducing benefits by 5 percent, was scrapped by Nicaraguan President
Daniel Ortega April 22.

Ortega has been heavily criticized for his handling of the crisis,
which led to the deaths of 25 people. But despite criticism of the overhaul coming from
business leaders, university students and elderly pensioners, the president publicly
blamed right-wing groups for the inciting violence.

Outrage spread after a local journalist, Angel Gahona, was shot
and killed while broadcasting the protest on Facebook Live. A police officer
was also shot in the head during deadly clashes in the Nicaraguan capital,

Catholic bishops called for peaceful demonstrations and sheltered
protesters in the cathedral of Managua.

Auxiliary Bishop Silvio Jose Baez of Managua has been
outspoken in his support of student protesters who have been targeted. In an
April 22 tweet, he urged the president to engage in constructive dialogue.

“President Daniel Ortega, abandon your arrogant
attitude, listen to the people, embrace dialogue with sincerity, feel the pain
of so many families and contribute to peace in the country,” he tweeted.

Bishop Baez also tweeted that he was calling on military and police forces
to end the repression against protesters and “to listen to God’s voice in their hearts: ‘Thou
shall not kill!”

– – –

Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju.

– – –

Copyright © 2018 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Original Article