GRANADA - Leaders of the Roman Catholic Church in Nicaragua are expressing concern for their security and firm resolve to continue their pastoral work following a strange string of robberies and attacks against two bishops critical of the Sandinista government.
In the past month, Granada Bishop Jorge Solórzano had his laptop computer stolen from his home in Granada and Managua Auxiliary Bishop Silvio Báez had his satchel stolen from his vehicle by armed assailants.
Báez said he had valuables with him during the attack, but the masked assailants only wanted his satchel.
The two robberies have some worried that the crimes are related to Sandinista efforts to collect information on adversaries for intimidation or blackmail.
”What worries me is that this was a tactic or strategy that was used in the past to spy on and intimidate the church. And the fact that two bishops have now had their bags stolen, in my case one that looked like it carried a computer, I think is worrisome,” Báez told Chanel 12 TV.
In the case of the Granada theft, a man dressed as a priest and driving a luxury vehicle apparently entered the priest’s home (the casa cural next to Granada’s Cathedral) and walked into Solórzano’s bedroom to steal his laptop.
”This could be the start to a campaign of intimidation or attack against the church. Based on what has happened so far, this is clearly organized,” Granada’s Bishop Emeritus Bernard Hombach told The Nica Times this week in an interview. “It appears that they are starting to operate the same way they did in the 1980s.”
Hombach said that he has learned of other cases that have not been made public. He said in one case a priest had a cellphone chip stolen from his phone that he left on his desk, while in another instance an unidentified burglar broke the window of another priest’s car and stole documents, leaving other valuables that were locked in the car untouched.
“It appears they are trying to look for information and intimidate the church,” Hombach said.
For journalist Maria López, author of various theological works, including “Just Jesus” and “Another God is Possible,” the robberies are meant to be a clear sign of intimidation in a pre-electoral political context, where outspoken priests are considered enemies of the government.
López said it’s difficult to think that this is common delinquency. She said it’s not coincidental that the two bishops who were robbed are among the more critically outspoken members of Nicaraguas clergy.
The National Police are reportedly investigating the robberies.