Following an attack on a Nicaraguan cathedral, hatred towards the Church is growing. Recently, the shrine of St. Rita of Cascia at Teustepe has been the target of violence, with the saint’s image being defaced. The Daily Compass conducted an interview with the Archdiocese of Managua’s Vicar for the Family, Msgr. Silvio Fonseca: “Here we have witnessed a full frontal attack by the state on the Church. The president has insulted us and it seems to be an open war against the Church. It is as if their objective were ‘to get rid of her’.” Fonseca’s appeal to the international community: “The priests here feel threatened. Gangs of hooded men are running around with impunity.”
Last January you denounced systematic persecutions made against the Church. Now the attacks are ever the more frequent and violent. How is the local clergy handling this situation?
Every day we are more concerned because now the government is changing its strategy. Police are dedicated to visiting the country’s priests, assuring them and the Church of their protection against outside threats. But all this obscures real the evil [that lays underneath]. It is all very disturbing! It is a whole new chapter for our nation built on the pretense that there is no religious persecution going on here, when it is just the other way around. Here we are experiencing institutionalized hatred, which has permeated the mentality and actions of party sympathizers. And, among the sympathizers, you will find police working against our priests. Suddenly they have started to visit all our churches and our priests are becoming suspicious. They will not deceive us. We will see how far this invasion of our churches can go, because once our priests are affected, so too is our Catholic community.
What does the Bishops’ Conference have to say?
Since all this was unforeseen, we will see how it turns out. But the priests, by their own reactions, have made themselves heard. This is so, also because it happened on a national level. There was planning involved. This is serious for us, since we did not ask for protection and since we must protect our own people. It is not just priests who are being persecuted, but also lay faithful. There are many people who are persecuted simply because of their faith and because they support the Catholic Church. This terrorist activity has taken the whole of Nicaragua by surprise. We could have never imagined just how far such diabolical evil could be waged evil against fellow Nicaraguans, against the hearts of faithful, against their religion and culture. The attack was carefully planned and, perhaps naively so, we did not think it could come to this. We are horrified.
Are you afraid that the attacks may also turn into acts of physical violence?
Undoubtedly. Because the leaders manage their base well and these groups do not act alone. Therefore, the “operatives” (here that’s what they’re called) are those who follow orders from the top chain of command, right from the dictatorship, which today is telling them to do [exactly] this. This is the way things work in Nicaragua.
When you talk about groups, which groups are you referring to?
They are anonymous. They appear in groups, often hooded. They do not show their faces, because they form squads trained to [to hide their identity] when carrying out physical attacks and all sorts of malice. Obviously, also, whoever sends them will never make a public appearance and, thus, will go unpunished. When a situation that is “too obvious” happens, they write up police reports as they did with the violence made against image of the Blood of Christ. Nothing changes. So we already know we’re not protected, because these groups are already protected in everything they do.
You are also director of the newspaper Voz Católica. Dictatorships do not like the free press. Is your news outset at risk?
Via Voz Católica, the truth about the Church and Nicaragua reaches people. That’s why people like our newspaper, both because it nourishes their faith and spirituality and because it informs them about what is really happening in our country. However, with the ongoing economic strife, we are in danger of suspending our business. People are not participating in Masses because of the pandemic [and do not purchase the newspaper sold in churches]. This is why we had to send out an SOS to international organizations, to people who support the Catholic media, in order to survive. Anyone who wishes to help us, can write me at my email address: email@example.com.
What else do you want to say to the international community?
Nicaragua is a nation that suffers every day, because we want democracy. We want our country to elect its leaders in free and transparent elections. Most citizens in Nicaragua are Catholic. We want peaceful change, but we are under constant repression in a militarized country. Here were are suffering terribly. We ask the international community to, at least, let everyone know what is going on in Nicaragua.
Source: New Daily Compass
© Reproduction is authorized provided the source is acknowledged.