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Monday, May 20, 2024

Nicaraguan Catholics Adapt Stations of the Cross Amid Restrictions

On Friday, Nicaraguan Catholics celebrated the Stations of the Cross restricted to the surroundings of churches, due to the government ban on traditional street processions that has been in place for two years.

The Holy Week celebrations took place amidst tensions between the Catholic Church and the government of Daniel Ortega, following the arrest of about 20 clergy members during Christmas and New Year festivities, who were released on January 14 and sent to Rome after an agreement with the Vatican.

Relations between the government and the Church deteriorated during the anti-government protests in 2018, which left more than 300 dead, according to the UN. The president considered them an attempted coup sponsored by Washington and supported by a sector of the clergy. The police must authorize all public activities, including religious ones.

“I believe that what matters is not so much how far we can walk, but how we walk (…) Great things sometimes come in small vessels,” said Cardinal Leopoldo Brenes, who led the Stations of the Cross at the Cathedral of Managua.

Julián Pérez, a 65-year-old dentist who helps carry the image of the crucified Jesus during the celebration, told AFP that he participates in this way in gratitude for miracles: “I had Covid, I was imprisoned (for an accident), I was seriously ill.”

Pérez said that until two years ago, the procession started near a Catholic school and went through several streets of Managua. “Now everything is here inside the cathedral,” he noted.

Fátima Leytón, a 29-year-old merchant, walks on her knees through the 14 stations of the cross in payment for favors received and to ask for the improvement of her husband, who is “battling cancer.”

Among the priests released by the government were two bishops, including Monsignor Rolando Álvarez – a strong critic of Ortega who had been detained since August 2022. In October last year, 12 other detained clergy members had already been released and also sent to Rome.

On February 29, a group of UN human rights experts said in Geneva that repression of all real or imagined opposition in Nicaragua “has become more subtle” and targets “university students, indigenous peoples, Afro-descendant peoples, peasants, and members of the Catholic Church and other Christian denominations.”

In rejecting the report, Ortega’s government stated that it lacks credibility.

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