Vatican closes embassy in Nicaragua in quarrel with Ortega – DW – 18/03/2023

The Vatican has closed its diplomatic mission in Nicaragua, the Vatican News portal reported Saturday, amid a growing row between the Catholic Church and the Central American country.

Bilateral relations had deteriorated further last week when Pope Francis called the government of Socialist President Daniel Ortega a dictatorship in an interview.

According to the portal, Vatican diplomat Monsignor Marcel Diouf had traveled to Costa Rica on Friday.

Ortega’s government has been targeting the Catholic Church for years after some church leaders sheltered anti-government protesters at their properties.

The response was prompted by Nicaraguan authorities’ violent crackdown on anti-government protesters since 2018, which resulted in the deaths of many opposition members

In addition to banning opposition protests, Ortega has also banned the traditional street processions organized ahead of Holy Week and Easter.

The Church has also tried to act as a mediator between the government and the political opposition.

Ortega: Catholic leaders are ‘terrorists’

Ortega has branded church representatives as terrorists seeking to overthrow him, prompting dozens of priests to flee abroad to avoid arrest.

Last year, two congregations of nuns were expelled.

A bishop, Rolando Alvarez, was sentenced to 26 years in prison in February after being charged with insubordination, undermining national integrity and other crimes.

Alvarez refused to board a plane carrying 222 exiled dissidents and priests to the United States. He was also stripped of his Nicaraguan citizenship.

Francis speaks out after months of silence

Francis has largely stayed out of line, but last week he called Ortega’s government a “rude dictatorship” similar to Hitler’s, led by an “unbalanced” president. The pope responded to Alcarez’s conviction.

In response, the government proposed suspending relations with the Holy See.

Last year it forced the then papal ambassador to leave the country.

It is not clear what else the closure would entail in diplomatic terms.

According to Vatican News, the embassy has been entrusted to the Italian government.

The US and the European Union have imposed several rounds of sanctions on Ortega and his family members over his administration’s erosion of democracy and civil rights.

Ortega expelled the EU ambassador to the country after calling for a return to democracy.

mm/text (AP, AFP, dpa)

Leave a Comment