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Thursday, June 1, 2023

Nicaragua expels Panamanian priest for organizing Holy Week procession

A Panamanian Catholic priest denounced Tuesday that he was expelled from Nicaragua and taken to the border with Honduras, accused of having organized an unauthorized Holy Week procession.

“They put me in a patrol car with two policemen and took me to the border [with Honduras] and there they made me cross and told me: you are out of the country and can no longer return,” said Claretian priest Donaciano Alarcón, in an interview with Radio Hogar of the Archdiocese of Panama.

Alarcón had been parish priest for a year and a half in the town of Cusmapa, near the border with Honduras, and said that he was detained on Monday by the police after officiating a mass.

Nicaraguan authorities have not informed about this event, which occurred in the midst of tensions between the government of Daniel Ortega and the Church, while Managua’s diplomatic relations with the Vatican are on the verge of rupture.

Managua has previously expelled other Catholic priests and Bishop Rolando Alvarez was sentenced in February to 26 years in prison.

Nicaraguan opposition media have affirmed that the government prohibited processions during Holy Week, which are a tradition in the country, although no regulation has been published in the official gazette.

The superior of the Claretians for Central America, Ismael Montero, affirmed that Alarcón “was being followed” for days.

“Taking advantage of the fact that he was coming from mass and was away from home, they took the opportunity to detain him and put him on the border with Honduras,” Montero told the same radio station.

Alarcón assured that the police accused him of “stirring up the people” and of carrying out “via crucis and processions”, charges that he denied.

“I did not make processions, because they were prohibited, and I was the first one to tell the people that there should be no processions”, said Alarcón.

The religious affirmed that the situation in Nicaragua is “uncomfortable because nothing can be talked about”. “I have never talked about politics because I am not interested, but I am interested in the issue of justice”, he added.

Diplomatic relations between Managua and the Vatican were on the verge of breaking down on March 12, when the Nicaraguan Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated in a communiqué that “a suspension of diplomatic relations” with that European state had been proposed.

That statement came days after, in an interview granted to the Argentine portal Infobae, Pope Francis described Ortega’s government as a “rude dictatorship” and that the leftist leader suffers from an “imbalance”.

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