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Saturday, April 1, 2023

Pope Calls For Dialogue over Church-State Crisis in Nicaragua

Addressing pilgrims and tourists in St Peter's Square for his weekly blessing, Francis made his first comments on the crisis in the Central American country

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VATICAN CITY/UNITED STATES: Pope Francis on Sunday called for an “open and honest” dialogue to resolve the dispute between the church and the government in Nicaragua following the arrest of a bishop who is a leading critic of President Daniel Ortega.

Addressing pilgrims and tourists in St Peter’s Square for his weekly blessing, Francis made his first comments on the crisis in the Central American country, where authorities have detained priests in recent months while others have gone into exile.

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Francis, who did not specifically mention the arrest of Bishop Rolando Alvarez of Matagalpa in the north of the country, said he was following the situation in Nicaragua “with concern and pain” and asked for prayers for the country.

“I would like to express my conviction and desire that through an open and honest dialogue the foundations for respectful and peaceful coexistence will be found,” Francis said.

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Alvarez was taken away during a pre-dawn raid in Matagalpa on Friday and jailed in the capital, Managua.

Alvarez, a critic of Ortega’s government and one of the most influential figures in the Nicaraguan church, was imprisoned for two weeks in a church house in Matagalpa, along with five priests, a seminarian and a cameraman for a religious television channel.

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Police said the priests, a seminarian and a cameraman were taken to a prison in Managua. The United Nations expressed concern over the raid and the Organization of American States condemned it.

Relations between the Catholic Church and the government have been severely strained since a crackdown on protests in 2018, with the church acting as a mediator between the government and protesters.

The church called for justice for more than 360 people who died during the riots.Nicaraguan Bishop Silvio Baez, also a critic of the government, went into exile in 2019.

In March of this year, the Vatican protested to Nicaragua against the de facto expulsion of its ambassador, saying that the unilateral action was unjustified and incomprehensible.

Archbishop Waldemar Sommertag, who had criticized Nicaragua’s move away from democracy, had to leave the country suddenly after the government withdrew the ambassador’s approval.

Earlier this month, police shut down seven radio stations linked to Alvarez and said they were investigating him for an alleged crime.

Also Read: Pope’s Potential Successor And Prominent Cardinal Embroiled in Sexual Assault Class Lawsuit

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