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“We need a respectful, mutual listening, free of ideology and predetermined agendas.” Pope Francis, Let us Dream, December 2020

Bishops attacked at church in Nicaragua

Nicaraguan bishops and clergy were attacked by armed groups aligned with the government on 9th July as violence in the Central American country escalated and affected the Catholic Church, which has provided humanitarian assistance in its parishes and has tried to diffuse a worsening political crisis through dialogue.

Cardinal Leopoldo Brenes Solorzano of Managua and his auxiliary, Bishop Silvio Jose Baez, and Archbishop Waldemar Stanislaw Sommertag, the apostolic nuncio, were among clergy from Managua pummelled as they attempted to protect St Sebastian Basilica in the city of Diriamba from an incursion by a pro-government mob. Bishop Baez and at least one other priest were injured. Journalists also were attacked and had cameras and other equipment stolen.

The bishops and clergy also tried to free anti-government protesters inside the church as masked individuals and mobs outside chanted “murderers” at the prelates. Pro-government media, meanwhile, accused the Church of allowing weapons to be stored inside its properties.

“I was injured, punched in the stomach, they took my episcopal symbols away from me, and verbally attacked me,” Bishop Baez tweeted, along with a picture of a gash on his arm and blood-stained habit. “I’m okay, thank God. The basilica is free and so are those who were inside.”

“We have felt brutal force against our priests. We had gone to (the) parish to console our priests, to accompany them in this suffering and were attacked,” he said.

The attack on the bishops came as Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega sent police and paramilitaries to counter protesters calling for his ouster.

Picture: Cardinal Leopoldo Brenes Solorzano of Managua, Nicaragua, and Auxiliary Bishop Silvio Baez Ortega, arrive as anti-government protests continue on 9th July in Diriamba. Later that day the two prelates were among Nicaraguan bishops and clergy attacked by armed groups aligned with the government Diriamba. (CNS photo/Oswaldo Rivas, Reuters).