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Nicaragua

 

ACN Interview: Bishop Rolando José Álvarez Lagos of Matagalpa, Nicaragua

09.08.2019 in Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, By Maria Lozano, Nicaragua

NICARAGUA

“The unity of the Church is the greatest strength that we bishops have”

Nicaragua is still shaken by the crisis that began 14 months ago. The country continues to make headlines as it did in mid-June with the pardoning of almost one hundred people who were still imprisoned for protesting against the government the year before.

This matter was also addressed at the General Assembly of the Organization of American States held in Medellín from June 26 to 28. The situation in the Central American country is critical, with a great degree of polarization and a lot of confrontation. Bishop Rolando José Álvarez Lagos of Matagalpa talked about it during his visit to the international headquarters of the pontifical charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN).

By Maria Lozano, ACN International
Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin for ACN Canada
Published on the web, Friday August 9, 2019

 

ACN: What is the situation in Nicaragua after more than 14 months of crisis?
We are living in a situation that is critical both socio-politically and economically. There is a great degree of polarization in Nicaragua, a lot of confrontation. We as a Church bring the people a word of hope to create the bedrock and foundation for our own narrative. It is about the hope for a better future in a country where the next generations can live in peace, justice and progress within the framework of institutionalized democracy, of course one that has a social orientation for the poor, as the Latin American bishops declared in Puebla in the 1970s.

The bishops played an important role in the entire process during the severe crisis in 2018: is the Church now less involved than it was then?
The Nicaraguan Church is directly committed to the narrative of its country. It feels and sees itself as a people, a nomadic and a pilgrim people, as a working people, who believe in themselves and are of course directed by the hand of God. I believe that we Nicaraguans have the potential to develop this as our future.

As regards the future of the country, those most affected by the crisis were the many young people who had tried to give voice to their protests. Doubtless, youth is one of the groups that suffered the most under the crisis. Would you agree?
Pope Francis says that young people are the now of God. Which is why young people in Nicaragua are writing history. They are developing their own narrative. That is why all of living society, both young people and adults, has to overcome transitory things and focus its thoughts and energy on ensuring that future generations will inherit a better country.

nicaragua-bishop

A number of media sources and social networks reported that there was a certain degree of disharmony in the Nicaraguan Church and different fractions in the Church. Is this statement true?
With all due respect: I see this as the complete and utter opposite of our reality and even anachronistic, obsolete, because the Church in Nicaragua may have been fragmented in the 1980s, when the famous “Church of the People” emerged all over Latin America with its so-called “Theology of Liberation”. A number of theologians have presented several aspects of this incorrectly, because any genuine theology is liberating.

Our Church is more unified than ever. This is made very clear by the fact that we have been able to achieve a very prophetic work with the help of the Holy Ghost. This includes the proclamation of hope: to keep your eyes open to the reality we live in today, but aspire to a better future and speak out against every injustice. If the Church in Nicaragua were not united, then it would not be able to realise this prophetic work, this prophetic mission. This would quite simply be impossible. I can also confirm that the unity of the Church, the unity of the Episcopal Conference of Nicaragua, is currently the greatest strength that we bishops have in our country.

 

What is the next challenge that you will have to face? What is the next step that you as a Church will have to take?
We Nicaraguans are responsible for our now. We have to learn from the mistakes of the past in order to be able to develop a better future. Shared responsibility means knowing and feeling that each of us is responsible for his own narrative, for our narrative and that we can and must change the narrative for the better. We can look back on more than 190 years of history, a history which found us very fragmented and divided and embroiled in confrontation. This made it difficult to build up a solid and stable country. I think that it is the duty of the Church not to neglect this responsibility in its prophetic mission and to play a role in the transition that the narrative of Nicaragua is currently making. A transition that can be achieved by all of us sitting together at the table, each at his or her place, without excluding anyone, and breaking bread together in dignity.

And of course we must continue to proclaim hope in the viability of our country. We must not lose hope – I believe that this is vital and a challenge for the Nicaraguan Church.

One last question: What would you like to say to benefactors of ACN throughout the world? What can we do for your country?
I really like the name of the charity – Aid to the Church in Need – because the Church truly is in need. It needs prayer and hope in order to be able to continue to work prophetically. The Church must continue to become the people and open its doors to all without discrimination. We are all the poor widow: not only those who have a lot of money, but also those who have very little.

The secret is in the words of St. Teresa of Calcutta, “to give until it hurts.” That is why I say to the benefactors of ACN: “Continue to do what you have done in the past without fear, until it hurts, by giving a part of that which you have to live on. Because by doing so you are giving us life.”

ACN Feature Story: Nicaragua – A Church supporting its people 

16.04.2019 in ACN, ACN International, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, by Ines San Martin, International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Journey with ACN, Nicaragua

Nicaragua: A Church supporting its people

“We are carrying a small corner of the cross of Christ. We cannot carry it all. It is He who is helping us.”

by Ines San Martin , ACN International
Revised by Amanda Bridget Griffin for ACN Canada
Posted April 16, 2019

Nicaragua today is a country trapped between two identities: on the one side it is a nation led by a government that in many respects continues a long history of dictatorship, as typified by the Somoza dynasty, which governed the country for almost 6 decades during the 20th century.

On the other hand, it is also a country whose people have said “enough.” A people who have woken up from their stupor and now wish to move forward, with a Catholic Church led by ten bishops who have no fear of shepherding their flock and being a Church that goes out to the margins, as Pope Francis keeps asking, and which opens the doors of its cathedrals in order to be, quite literally, a field hospital. A Church without political banners and which makes no distinctions in caring for the wounded, supporting those who suffer and feeding their hunger, both physical and spiritual.

“They stepped up at a difficult moment… When the people were suffering greatly, because they were afraid to go out into the streets,” says one priest from the diocese of Matagalpa – who for reasons of security prefers to remain anonymous. He is speaking to a delegation from the international Catholic pastoral charity and pontifical foundation Aid to the Church in Need (ACN International), which visited the country at the end of November 2018 to express its support and solidarity with the situation in which the country finds itself.

A population in distress

Despite the posters in the city, which boast of a Matagalpa that is “Christian, socialist, in solidarity,” the tension is palpable, with police and paramilitaries on the streets to dissuade the civil population from organizing protests, although these, for the most part, have been peaceful. The protests began in April 2018, but in the case of Matagalpa, the government forces have even prohibited a group of women from honouring the memory of their children, who were murdered in the civil-war in a march that they have done regularly for almost 20 years.

“I am one of the lucky ones. Many priests have been forced to flee,” our friend tells us. “But we cannot remain unmoved when people burst in during Mass because they are killing them. Because the army and police aren’t throwing sweets at them. They are shooting to kill, aiming at people’s heads, their backs and their chests.”

“The Gospel teaches us that we must open our doors to those who are persecuted, and this is what we did. Our churches were turned into refuges, not into opposition planning centres, as the government claims to believe.”

This is a priest who knows what he’s talking about. On May 15, 2018, in a car belonging to the diocese and known as “the ambulance,” he rescued 19 wounded demonstrators who had been hit by army AK-47s bullets. By government order, the public hospitals were forbidden to help the wounded, the majority of whom were university students.

“During those days, the people on our church benches were not listening to the Gospel, they were living it,” he told us with emotion.

The Church defends the right to peaceful protest

From September onwards, and with help from various international organizations, the diocesan church opened five pastoral Human Rights offices providing support to families who lost children during the demonstrations, and to those who are still persecuted today for having protested. Around 50 are still imprisoned without trial, and hundreds have “disappeared,” while an estimated 30,000 or so have gone into exile in Costa Rica, and many more into other countries.

“They accuse us of hiding weapons, but we have never done so,” the priest tells us. “Our only weapon has been Jesus in the Eucharist.”

The number of people who today depend on the Church for their survival has tripled since the month of April.

“We are carrying a small corner of the Cross of Christ,” he tells us. “We cannot carry it all. It is He who is helping us.”

The situation of the bishops and of many religious in Nicaragua is far from easy. Their act of opening the doors of churches to care for the wounded, both students and police, and their willingness to be involved in a failed process of national dialogue, has resulted in many being branded by official sources as “coup plotters” and “terrorists.”

One of these is Cardinal Leopoldo Brenes, the Archbishop of Managua, the capital of the country. Despite the difficulties, he has lost neither his smile nor his faith. But despite his smile, Brenes cannot hide his concern for the future of Nicaragua, a country that has lived through enough revolutions to know that many of the grandiloquent ideas that convince the masses, sooner or later end up being destroyed by the abuses of power of the few.

The last revolution began on 18 April, although many people in Nicaragua agree that in reality it was no more than the “matchstick that ignited the bonfire that had been building up a long time previously.”

“The Church is accompanying the process of dialogue that was initiated after the protests, but as a service to the country,” Brenes insists. “We are not interested in power, but in supporting the efforts for peace, without looking for any personal benefit other than the good of the country. When the clashes took place between the government forces and the demonstrators, we defended all sides.”

More than once, the Cardinal was forced to mediate between the government and the protesters, both in order to rescue police officers who had been captured in the crush, and to prevent the soldiers from shooting on the students.

“We never asked anyone what side they were on, we simply helped all those who asked our aid,” he told us, though he did acknowledge that they could have denounced the use of violence on the part of some of the demonstrators.

“Both sides were violent at times, but the government made disproportionate use of violence,” he said. “The riot police had rifles, whereas the young demonstrators had catapults and home-made petrol bombs.”

 

Praying the Rosary to bring peace

The challenge now is to work for national reconciliation; something he knows will take generations and cannot be achieved overnight. “But we have to lay the groundwork for this reconciliation.”

Despite the challenges, Brenes chooses to cling to his faith rather than lose hope, more than ever convinced of the prophetic words of Pope Pius XII, who said, “Give me an army of people who pray the Rosary every day, and we will change the world.”

“I pray the Rosary every day: the first mystery for Nicaragua, the second for the conversion of those in government, the third for the mothers who have lost their children, or have them in prison, the fourth for the political prisoners, and the fifth for the clergy.

We believe that faith can move mountains, and the prayer of the Rosary can convert hearts and move them to a true reconciliation that will care for the wounded hearts and seek the good of everyone,” the Cardinal concluded. “And you, will you pray for Nicaragua?”

ACN News – Lies which “create a psychosis of war”

03.08.2018 in ACN NEWS, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, By Maria Lozano, Nicaragua

Nicaragua

Lies which “create a psychosis of war”

Sources close to the Catholic Church in Nicaragua are accusing the media in the country of a lack of neutrality. News reports about the grave crisis the country has been going through in recent months should be treated with caution. This applies especially with regard to the stories being posted on social media, many of which are false – for example the fake news spread last week about the murder of Bishop Abelardo Mata of the diocese of Estelí.

“The war that we are currently living through in our country is also a media war, where the major part of this conflict is being played out,” the same source, which prefers to remain anonymous for fear of reprisal, told the international Catholic pastoral charity and pontifical foundation Aid to the Church in Need (ACN). At the same time, stating that “the lies, the confusion, the obscurantism that we are facing right now are almost as dangerous as the bullets being fired, because they are creating a psychosis of war, a psychosis of fear.”

A lack of impartiality is to be found on both sides of the conflict in the Central American country. “The state media don’t report when there has been a police or paramilitary shooting, and if they do they blame it on the Maras,” (organized criminal gangs). Media that oppose the Government invent unfounded rumours. “They don’t report if police or people aligned with the regime are killed, or if the offices of the local Town Hall are set on fire.” An example of this was “the killing of three peasant farmers last Sunday for being closely linked to the Sandinista front. But this news was ignored by media not belonging to the Sandinista front.”

Our source also explained one of the most serious concerns is the radicalization of both sides that has taken place since the conflict began. On April 18 of this year, a call went out to people on social networks to protest against reforms of the Nicaraguan Social Security Institute, which included an increase in taxes paid by Nicaraguan workers and at the same time cuts in pensions and social security payments.
The confrontations erupted when supporters of President Daniel Ortega also came out on the streets in support of the reforms. Since then the repression and violence by pro-government paramilitary forces against the protesters has grown worse.

“It is important to remember that 30 years ago there was a civil war in Nicaragua. Now the wounds have reopened, and indeed even deepened. It is hatred.” For this reason, the most urgent thing at present is to establish “a process of reconciliation. The true apostles are those who speak of pardon, pardon, pardon.”
For his part Cardinal Mauro Piacenza, the international president of ACN, has responded to the call by the Nicaraguan bishops in their last press release on July 14 and re-emphasized the importance of the prayer campaigns for Nicaragua that have been initiated in various different countries by the pontifical charity ACN.

 

Nicaragua, diocese of Managua, diocese of Yangon 

“In difficult times, such as the one Nicaragua is living through at the moment, the people see the Church as a great source of moral support. For this reason, it is essential to support the Church in its difficult task. The central mission of ACN is to combine its pastoral aid program with information, in order to draw the attention of the entire Christian community and indeed the whole world to this painful and violent crisis. For prayer is the motor and driving force of all change,” Cardinal Piacenza added.

 

ACN News – Crisis in Nicaragua

20.07.2018 in ACN NEWS, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, By Marta Petrosillo, Mass Offerings, Nicaragua, Persecution of Christians

CRISIS IN NICARAGUA

“Masaya is under a hail of bullets” – A Cardinal asks for “pressure on the government” urging it to show respect for the Church and the people of Nicaragua.

Cardinal Leopoldo José Brenes Solórzano, diocese of Managua in Nicaragua

“Please put pressure on the government, urging it to show respect for the bishops, the priests and the population.” This was the appeal issued via ACN by Cardinal Leopoldo José José Brenes Solorzano, the Archbishop of Managua, Nicaragua.

The Cardinal also spoke about the difficult situation in Masaya, a town some 30 km south of the capital Managua, which has become a symbol of the opposition to the government of President Daniel Ortega and which since 6 a.m. local time Tuesday, has been besieged “by over 1000 soldiers and police. So far, no deaths have been recorded, but undoubtedly, there will be numerous injured victims. The town has been submerged under a wave of bullets,” the Cardinal stated.

A few hours previous, Cardinal Brenes called on the people of Masaya and the other areas under siege to remain in their homes in order to prevent further casualties. “It is an extremely difficult moment for the whole country,” he told ACN.

 

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The clashes between loyalist and opposition forces have now been dragging on for months, while the Church herself has also been under attack. On July 9, the Cardinal was assaulted by paramilitary personnel in the Basilica of San Sebastian in Diriamba, along with his auxiliary Bishop José Silvio Baez and the apostolic nuncio, Archbishop Waldemar Stanisław Sommertag.

The repression by the Sandinista government of Daniel Ortega is now openly directed against the Church.

On 16 July, Bishop Abelardo Mata miraculously escaped an armed attack attributed to paramilitary forces. The repression by the Sandinista government of Daniel Ortega is now openly directed against the Church. “Hearing the appeal by Pope Francis to be a “field hospital,” many of our parishes have given shelter to those seeking safety and help to the injured,” the Cardinal explained. “Undoubtedly this has not pleased the government. Just as it has not been pleased by our efforts in trying to dismantle these paramilitary groups.”

At this extremely delicate moment, Cardinal Brenes addressed an appeal to the West, and to Catholics in particular, calling for the Ortega government to be reminded to show respect towards the Church and the Nicaraguan people. “At the same time, I invite everybody to join in a chain of prayer and offer concrete support to our priests by offering Mass intentions. For in fact many of our priests have to celebrate in private, and consequently they do not receive any Mass offerings and so have no means of financial support.”

“We are very close to the Church and to the Nicaraguan people, to whom we extend our solidarity and our prayers,” said Regina Lynch, ACN’s Head of Projects at its international headquarters in Germany. “In the next few months we will be visiting this country of Central America in order to strengthen our bonds of communion in prayer and our pastoral support.”

JOURNEY WITH ACN – NICARAGUA

04.10.2013 in ACN International, ACN PROJECTS, Journey with ACN, Nicaragua, Uncategorized

JOURNEY WITH ACN is our Friday newsletter which will be regularly posted to our blog.  This weekly newsletter will an opportunity for us to acquaint you with the needs of the Church and the projects we have realized together in countries around the world.

Today:  Nicaragua

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Nicaragua

 A church for the new parish of La Fonseca

By ACN International

Adapted by AB Griffinnicaragua1

The community of Nueva Guinea in the south of Nicaragua was established in the 1960s for resettled peasant farmers. Today it has a population of 140,000 people, drawn from many different regions of the country.

Originally only Baptists and other Protestants were intended to live here and in fact, every attempt was made to prevent Catholic families from settling. Catholics were also discriminated against when it came to the distribution of land. Today, there are at least 70 different Protestant ecclesial communities in Nueva Guinea, but the Catholic Church has also established herself here.

The unemployment rate is high and the children are often forced to work to help their family make ends meet, so the Church is helping many people in this town where youth crime is also on the rise. The Church opposes violence, helps women and children, working in the schools and endeavouring to counter the evil influences that are promoted by the mass media and spreading ever more widely within society.

At the very heart of all these activities, however, is the celebration of the Eucharist, emphasizes the parish priest, Father Mariano Martinez. His parish community makes a particular effort to prepare for religious feasts and liturgical celebrations, and great emphasis is also placed on Eucharistic adoration and on catechesis.

nicaragua2Catholic life is flourishing, and the young Catholic community of Nueva Guinea has already produced five religious vocations – three nuns and two priests. In addition, two young local men are preparing for ordination and another two have just entered the seminary.

The parish has in fact grown far too big now and has been divided. The newly created parish of La Fonseca now comprises 41 rural communities and almost 2,500 Catholic families with 165 catechists active within the parish, while 300 children and 450 young people are involved in various different parish groups.

Now the time has come to build a church for this new parish; it will be dedicated to Our Lady of Guadalupe. ACN is planning to support the construction of this church with a contribution of $44,000.

To make a donation by  please call: (514) 932-0552 or toll free 1-(800) 585-6333  or click the image to make a secure on-line donation.
To make a donation by please call: (514) 932-0552 or toll free 1-(800) 585-6333or click the image to make a secure on-line donation.