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Nicaragua arrests another bishop as Marxist regime ramps up its brutal persecution of Catholics
Nicaraguan dictator Daniel Ortega. YouTube video, EWTN - Screenshot

Nicaragua arrests another bishop as Marxist regime ramps up its brutal persecution of Catholics

Nicaragua's socialist regime has arrested another bishop as part of Nicaragua's crackdown on Catholics and the Catholic Church — perceived to constitute threats to Marxist dictator Daniel Ortega's stranglehold on power.

Bishop Isidro del Carmen Mora Ortega was on his way to celebrate the confirmations of 230 parishioners on Dec. 20 in La Cruz de Río Grande when Marxist paramilitaries intercepted him and dragged him away. According to El Pais, the bishop's whereabouts remain unknown.

Two seminarians, Alester Saenz and Tony Palacio, were reportedly detained with Bishop Mora on Wednesday.

Bishop Mora apparently drew the ire of the regime, not only on account of his religiosity but because he indicated the previous day during a homily at the Cathedral of Saint Peter the Apostle that he was praying for Bishop Rolando Álvarez of Matagalpa, whom the regime has all but condemned to die in prison, reported the Tablet.

"We remain united in prayer for the beloved diocese of Matagalpa," said Bishop Mora. "We pray for Bishop Rolando and for each one of you."

For supposedly refusing to go into exile with five priests, a deacon, two seminarians, and hundreds of other critics of the Marxist regime, Bishop Álvarez was accused of "conspiracy to undermine national integrity," convicted of treason without being assigned legal representation, stripped of his citizenship, and sentenced to a 26-year prison sentence.

Bishop Mora's arrest is the latest in a long series of attacks on Catholics and on Christian groups critical of the regime.

While Catholic clergy once dabbled with leftist politics in Nicaragua, Pope John Paul II largely brought this flirtation to a standstill, stressing in 1980 that "an atheist ideology cannot be the guiding instrument of the effort to promote social justice, because it deprives man of his freedom, of spiritual inspiration, and of the strength to love his brother, which has its most solid and operative foundation in the love of God," reported the Catholic News Agency.

Pope John Paul II suspended various clergymen who remained supportive of the revolutionary Marxists while on the other hand promoting a steadfast critic of the Sandinistas, then-Archbishop Miguel Obando y Bravo, to cardinal in 1985.

After losing an election in 2003, Ortega feigned apologetic for the Sandinistas' longstanding persecution of the Catholic Church, which for years served as a counter to authoritarian overreach. However, once back in power, he resumed his anti-Catholic campaign.

At the beginning of his fourth term in office in 2018, Ortega's paramilitaries reportedly inaugurated a new spate of attacks by shooting up a church. Now with Ortega in his fifth term, attacks on Catholics — who make up the majority of the population — and on churches have only worsened.

The U.S. State Department indicated in a human rights report earlier this year that Ortega's regime has been credibly accused of "unlawful or arbitrary killings, including extrajudicial killings; torture and cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment by prison guards and parapolice; ... arbitrary arrest and detentions; [holding] political prisoners; ... severe restrictions on religious freedom"; and a host of other ghastly crimes against the citizenry.

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom noted in its recent report that "religious freedom conditions in Nicaragua worsened considerably last year."

Extra to freezing church assets and conducting arbitrary raids, beatings, disappearances, and church burnings, "the Ortega regime has also pressured the Catholic Church by hindering or preventing Church-affiliated organizations and services from operating," having closed over 3,000 related nongovernmental organizations in 2022 alone.

For instance, schools such as the Jesuit Central American University have been shuttered by the regime. Catholic television networks and programming have been banned and replaced with state propaganda. Radio stations operated by the church have similarly been shut down.

Even Catholic processions are now verboten in public, especially on holy days such as Easter and the celebration of the Conception of Mary, regarded by Nicaraguans as a national saint.

"In 2023 alone, 275 attacks were carried out. We can say this last year was the year with the most attacks against the Church during the recent five-year period," Martha Patricia Molina, a Nicaraguan lawyer and researcher, told El Pais. "176 religious men and women are not exercising their ministry in Nicaragua because they were expelled, prohibited from entering or sent into exile."

Tens of thousands of Nicaraguans have fled the nation since 2018 to avoid Ortega's death squads, kangaroo courts, and various restrictions on liberty. An estimated 80% of the country's clergy and religious have left the country.

It appears persecution under the Ortega regime has had an impact on American illegal immigration.

According to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, 370,523 Nicaraguans were encountered crossing the U.S. southern border between January 2021 and November 2023.

Those Christians, pro-democracy dissenters, and regime critics who do not voluntarily leave are frequently thrown out. Earlier this month, the Ortega regime booted the International Committee of the Red Cross from the country, bringing an end to the organization's humanitarian mission in the country.

Molina noted, "The objective of this persecution is always the same: to make the Catholic Church of Nicaragua completely disappear, because priests and bishops have not knelt down before the dictatorship nor have they become accomplices and cronies, which that is what they were hoping for."

"Since they have not managed to make bishops and priests bow down to the dictatorial project, the objective is to annihilate Catholicism, to create their own religion, in which the gods are Daniel Ortega and his wife," added Molina.

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