The humanitarian arm of the Catholic Church in the Philippines on Friday has expressed concern over the “escalating repression” of the Church in Nicaragua.
“We are deeply troubled by the recent wave of arrests of priests and religious workers in Nicaragua,” said Bishop Jose Colin Bagaforo, president of Caritas Philippines.
The dictatorship of Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega has ended in the year 2023 with two bishops, 15 priests, and two seminarians in custody, according to Catholic News Agency.
On Dec. 31, 2023, Father Gustavo Sandino Ochoa of the Our Lady of Sorrows Parish in Santa María in the Pantasma region in the Diocese of Jinotega was abducted, marking the latest of the series of attacks.
Bishop Bagaforo said the actions by the Nicaraguan government “are a blatant violation of fundamental rights,” adding that it is “a clear attempt to silence dissent and suppress the voice of the Church.”
Early this week, Pope Francis issued an appeal for prayers for the Church in Nicaragua, which has been under the crosshairs of the Sandinista regime.
“I am following with deep concern what is happening in Nicaragua, where bishops and priests have been deprived of their freedom. I express to them, their families, and the entire Church in the country my closeness in prayer,” the pontiff said during his first Angelus of the year.
Caritas Philippines echoed Pope Francis’ calls for the immediate “release of all detained priests and religious workers” and to “cease all forms of harassment and intimidation against the Church and its members”.
It also urged the Nicaraguan government to respect the right to freedom of religion and the right to peaceful assembly and engage in constructive dialogue with the Church to find a peaceful and just resolution to the current situation.
“We stand with our brothers and sisters in the Catholic Church in Nicaragua in their time of need,” said Bagaforo.
The prelate called on the international community “to speak out against these injustices and to demand that the Nicaraguan government respect the fundamental rights of all its citizens.”
“We will continue to advocate for the rights of all people, regardless of their faith or background, and we will work tirelessly to build a world where everyone can live in freedom and dignity,” said Bagaforo.