Catholic parishioners in Nicaragua celebrated on Friday the Stations of the Cross in the gardens of the temples and not in the streets, amid tensions between the government of President Daniel Ortega and the Church.
Opposition media and some priests assured that the government prohibited the traditional Holy Week processions in the streets, although officially no restrictions were reported.
In the Cathedral of Managua, the Way of the Cross was led by Cardinal Leopoldo Brenes, who pointed out that all the churches were full. According to local legislation, the police must authorize all public activities, including religious ones.
“It is sad when it is said that we have not held processions and all of them have been held (…) I want to thank the people who have participated massively”, Brenes told the press.
“Our churches, the report I have from the priests, are all completely full”, added the Cardinal and Archbishop of Managua.
On the Cathedral grounds, Marlenne Alvarado, 72, walked barefoot through the 14 Stations of the Cross to pay penance because her son, 49, survived a serious illness.
“Wherever we are, we are with God and with him who takes us a little further ahead, with fervor we always go ahead (…) whether they put the measure they put on us, but we are fine,” said Alvarado.
Alberto Murillo, 52, said he saw no difference between participating in the procession in the streets or inside the church.
“Everyone lives their profession or their Catholicism within their heart. For me it’s the same, whether inside or outside, it’s the same,” said Murillo.
Managua expelled from the country this week a priest of Panamanian origin in a fact that adds to the deportation of other Catholic religious and the 26-year prison sentence against Bishop Rolando Alvarez, issued in February.
In addition, diplomatic relations between Managua and the Vatican were on the verge of breaking down on March 12 when the Nicaraguan Foreign Ministry stated in a communiqué that “a suspension of diplomatic relations” with that European state has been proposed.
That statement came days after, in an interview granted to the Argentine portal Infobae, Pope Francis described the Ortega government as a “rude dictatorship” and that the Sandinista leader suffers from an “imbalance”.