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Letter on the Church in Nicaragua

 

Nicaraguan Bishops' Conference, July 7, 1986

The Bishops of the Episcopal Conference of Nicaragua fraternally greet the members of the conferences of bishops around the world to share with them the suffering and hopes of the church on pilgrimage in Nicaragua, to ask their prayers and solidarity, and to communicate to them the following:

  1. The situation of the Church in Nicaragua becomes daily more difficult because of an increase of pressure and threats on the part of the Government of the Republic.

    A.  Pope John Paul II and the Bishops of the country are treated with disrespect and calumny constantly in government media. There is a special effort to present the Bishops as persecutors of church personnel and as allies, followers and promoters of the imperialistic plans of the United States. There is an effort also to make the Holy Father appear as the executor of those plans (cf the pastoral letter of the Nicaraguan Bishops on the Eucharist as the Source of Unity and Reconciliation, April 6, 1986).

    It has gotten to the point where an official newspaper contained the following phrases in an editorial: "Between Reagan who yesterday had sketched a smile on the Statue of Liberty, with the approval of the millions of dollars for his mercenaries and this Pope who only offers prayers for dead Yankees and issues forth accusations and threats towards the victims of imperialism, there exists the most perfidious agreement and the gravest danger for all peoples since those years in which barbarism and genocide were committed in the name of the Cross and the Empire," (El Nuevo Diario, July 6, 1986).

    B.  The priests who are faithful to their Bishops are visited constantly be members of the state security office with the intention of separating them from their Bishops by means of flattery or threats. They use the very same strategy with the faithful in order to divide them from pastors and pressure them to become informers against their own church, threatening them with reprisals against them or against their families if they do not do so.

    C.  In these past seven years the Church has been deprived of two nuns and sixteen priests who have been expelled from the country by the Sandinista government.

    D.  A Nicaraguan priest, Monsignor Bismarck Carballo, director of Radio Catolica and the episcopal vicar for social communications, has been expatriated (June 28, 1986). Bishop Pablo Antonio Vega, Nicaraguan, Bishop-Prelate of Juigalpa, Vice President of the Bishops Conference of Nicaragua, member of the Pontifical Commission for Justice and Peace, who was in his episcopal office, was expelled from the country on July 4, 1986.

    E.  It has become more difficult, if not impossible, to obtain residency visas for priests and religious who wish to come to work pastorally in Nicaragua in union with the Bishops. In fact, after one year of making appropriate efforts the religious women who are members of the community of Mother Theresa of Calcutta have been denied the possibility of establishing two communities in Nicaragua.

    The religious of the popular church who come to work in favor of the government have no difficulty whatever in this sense.

  2. They try to make the Church completely silent, both within and outside the country.

    A.  Since 1981 the Church has been denied the use of television. Documents of the Holy See and of the Bishops Conference of Nicaragua are censored. The letter of the Holy Father to the Bishops of Nicaragua of June 29, 1982 was held up and was published only after a long period of time. Even then it was accompanied by an offensive commentary by the media office of the Minister of the Interior.

    We were forbidden to publish communiqués regarding the pastoral letter of the Nicaraguan Bishops of April 5, 1986.

    B.  All copies of the archdiocesan newspaper “Iglesia” were confiscated on October 12, 1985.

    C.  The printing press on which this newspaper had been published was also confiscated and a parish bulletin which had been published for almost eight years containing the Sunday liturgical texts was also confiscated on October 14, 1985.

    D.  Radio Catolica of Nicaragua was closed on January 1, 1986. It had been censored for several years.

    E.  A few remaining independent media such as "La Prensa" were closed on June 26 of this year. This newspaper was forbidden to publish the Sunday homily of Cardinal Miguel Obando and other writings and declarations of the members of the Church hierarchy. This had been going on for three months during which the publications of lies against the Church were permitted in the numerous government communications media.

    F.  Those who express opinions which the government considers subversive are threatened with expulsion from the country.

    G.  The Church is slandered. It is accused of not dialoguing but it is forgotten that during 1985 there were a series of conversations with the mixed church-state commissions. There were a total of ten such conversations and there had been numerous proposals for dialogue which have not been answered, such as the last letter which contained an offer for dialogue sent to the government on May 2 of this year.

    H.  The moral and physical security of Bishops, Priests, Religious and faithful is constantly threatened with scandal, demonstrations by the "turbas", threats of death or expulsion from the country if they persist in fidelity to the church and in the defense of human rights.

  3. The so-called popular church which is totally at the service of the cause of the government is the most dangerous weapon used by the government to attempt to divide the church (cf the pastoral letter of the Nicaraguan Bishops of April 6, 1986).

    The priests and religious of the popular church repeat on the international level the ideas and the slander of the government against the Church.

    We believe that these incomplete data will be useful in making better known the truth about the Church in Nicaragua united in prayer to Christ and to Mary.

The Episcopal Conference of Nicaragua



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