The Catholic Church in Nicaragua is facing unprecedented persecution in the country. It all started in April 2018 when many students and civilians protested to the government over pension law reforms affecting the elderly. The government responded with violence to the protests and the young people sought shelter in the churches. The Catholic Churches took them in to protect their lives and the bishops and priests and even the Apostolic Nuncio, interceded for the young people. The Church became the voice of the youth that the government was trying to silence. This caused the government to begin persecution against the Catholic Church.
The first was the auxiliary bishop of Managua, Bishop Baez, OCD whom His Holiness Pope Francis had to ask to move to Rome as there were plans to kill him, now living in exile in the United States. Later the Apostolic Nuncio was declared Non Grato and had to leave the country. After this many priests were imprisoned.
In 2022, the banks informed the religious congregations that they were not allowed to have bank accounts, that they had to be under the account of the diocese to which they belonged. Our communities in Nicaragua (five houses) had to close their accounts and follow a long process to join the accounts of the dioceses. For many months our sisters could not receive the help they needed to subsist.
Since the country is very poor, all our houses are engaged in social work such as soup kitchens, accomodation for girls who wish to study, day care centers, parish work, retreat house, social hall, etc. All these activities do not generate the necessary income for their subsistence, so they depend on the help that various provinces of the congregation and the Motherhouse send them, and the generous help of American and European benefactors. All financial aid is sent to them by bank transfer.
On May 26, 2023 the government froze all the bank accounts of the Catholic Church and therefore also those of the sisters.
This put our sisters and the apostolate they carry out in danger. Many of the employees were fired, and they began to live in the communities with the minimum possible to subsist to try to live on the little they had. They began to make money in other ways, making bread to sell, they opened a small cafeteria where some of the parents of the children in the day care center could have breakfast, and with this they could continue to support the young school girls. Unfortunately their efforts were not enough and in July they had to close the soup kitchen of one of the houses and in another house they worked only 3 days a week, since they had no money to buy food for the children.
From 2018 to the present, the government has cancelled the legal status of more than 3,000 non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that helped in social projects to the population. Also many religious congregations have had to leave the country as their legal status has been cancelled and their assets confiscated. Seventeen priests have been imprisoned and subsequently sent into exile, only Bishop Alvarez remains in jail with a sentence of more than 26 years.
The government has also denied the renewal of residency of many foreign religious who have had to leave the country. Many religious and priests, even though they are Nicaraguans, have not been allowed to return to their country, among them one of our Nicaraguan sisters who had been in Rome for two years studying. There are approximately 90 religious among priests and sisters who have been sent into exile, or have been denied entry or have had to flee for their lives.
Our sisters live with the constant worry that at any moment they will have their legal status cancelled with the consequence of the confiscation of all our houses and apostolates. Communication with them is difficult because all the telephones are controlled by the government, they listen to the conversations and anything that is said can be the cause of imprisonment. All priests know that at any moment it could be their turn to go to jail.
It is forbidden to pray in the masses for Bishop Alvarez who is in prison, to celebrate masses in the cemeteries, to pray the rosary in the houses with many people in attendance, processions, and any public manifestation of the faith. Only celebrations inside the churches are allowed. In parishes that do not have priests, some lay people have taken the initiative to do the celebration of the word, but they too have been taken to the police station for interrogation and threatened with imprisonment if they continue to do so.
It is a real persecution against the Catholic Church and against some Protestant churches. The government wants to completely banish the faith of the Nicaraguan people.
We invite everyone to pray for the persecuted Church in Nicaragua and for the protection of our sisters.
Recently we were able to open a bank account in the United States along with a debit card that we were able to send to our sisters in Nicaragua. It is a debit card for the use of all our houses and apostolates, the purchases have had to be focused in Managua, and from there send the products to the different houses, one of them 10 hours away. For the moment this is the only way we have found to help our sisters and to maintain the apostolate they are doing for the poor. With the closing of many NGOs, any help our sisters give to the poor is now more than ever needed.
We appreciate the prayers and concern of all who have been asking for our sisters. We are all part of the same family and their pain is also ours.