The Vatican expressed on Saturday March 12 “his surprise and his regrets” that the Apostolic Nuncio to Nicaragua, Bishop Waldemar Stanislaw Sommertag, has been asked by the government of President Ortega to leave the country. A decision “unjustified” for the Holy See which published a press release this Saturday.
According to an AFP diplomatic source, based in Managua, the apostolic nuncio abruptly left the country on Sunday March 6.
The President of the Episcopal Conference of Nicaragua, Bishop Carlos Herrera, assured Nicaraguan private television Canal 10 on Tuesday March 8 that “Relations were not good” between Bishop Sommertag and the government and hinted that Pope Francis had probably asked him to resign.
A ” serious and unjustified unilateral measure”
But in the press release published on Saturday March 12, the Vatican claims to have received “with great surprise and great regret” a notification that the government has withdrawn its accreditation from Bishop Sommertag, “forcing him to immediately leave the country”. This order is “incomprehensible” considering his “dedication” to the Catholic Church and to the Nicaraguan people, regrets the Vatican, adding that Bishop Sommertag has always sought to maintain ” good relations “ with the government. “This serious and unjustified unilateral measure does not reflect the feelings of the deeply Christian people of Nicaragua”underlines the press release.
Bishop Sommertag took office in the capital Managua in 2018 when power was the target of demonstrations by thousands of opponents. These were bloodily repressed with a toll of at least 355 dead, 2,000 injured, half a thousand prisoners and tens of thousands exiled, according to human rights organizations.
Daniel Ortega then accused Catholic officials of premeditating a coup, while anti-government forces took over the streets. Thousands of Nicaraguans, including Msgr. Silvio Jose Baez, the auxiliary bishop of the Archbishop of Managua, Cardinal Léopoldo Brenes, had been forced to flee the country.
Wave of arrests
The Church, however, played a role of mediator in an attempt to find a way out of the crisis. Bishop Sommertag had thus participated in 2019 “ as a witness and companion” to “national dialogue between the government and the political opposition, with a view to the reconciliation of the country and the release of political prisoners”, recalls the Vatican in its press release.
In July 2021, as Nicaragua faced a wave of arrests affecting political opponents of the Sandinista regime, a violent diatribe by President Ortega equated priests with “rabble” who would use Christ “to destroy the lives of indigenous peoples”. At the same time, Vice-President Rosario Murillo denounced alleged “satanic actions” committed by the Nicaraguan Church against the regime. “At no time do we want to take on a political rolethen retorted Friday July 30, 2021 Cardinal Brenes. Our job is to evangelize, our job is the loving work of Christ, who came that we might have life and life to the full. »