ROME – There’s no rest for the Catholic hierarchy in Nicaragua. Months after a civil uprising that left hundreds dead, the bishops continue to raise their voices in defense of those who died, while urging the government to have an honest dialogue with those who want to oust President Daniel Ortega.
If such a dialogue resumes, Cardinal Leopoldo Brenes, archbishop of Managua, has said the Catholic Church will be available to assist.
“As you know, Pope Francis has always insisted on dialogue, because this is a part of the life of the Church,” Brenes told a group of journalists on Sunday.
“We’re available and we continue working to promote dialogue all the time, doing so in simple ways, in our parishes, when there’s tension in a marriage or a group … if we’re called, we’ll be there.”
Speaking about where the country goes now in terms of reconciliation, Brenes said the only way to achieve it is by starting with healing hearts.
“Bad words, bad thoughts, come from the heart,” he said. “Every reconciliation project has to start with healing wounded hearts.”
To date, the total number of people killed in the protests remains unknown, but when Crux was in Nicaragua last November, various NGOs spoke of a minimum of 350 casualties, in most cases university students but also children and elderly. In addition, some 500 to 800 people are today either in prison without rights to a trial, and a similar number of people were “disappeared” between September and November.
The government of President Daniel Ortega recognizes 199 deaths and 340 prisoners, whom he describes as “terrorists,” “coup organizers” and “criminals.”
Ahead of the upcoming meeting between the bishops of Central America and Pope Francis during World Youth Day Panama, Brenes also said that the Nicaraguan bishops don’t expect to be able to focus particularly on their crisis.
“It’s not an exclusive meeting between us [bishops of Nicaragua] and the pope,” he noted. “It’s every bishop of the Central American region who will be meeting with him. We don’t have a personal audience, we’re simply going to listen to the message he brings to us.”
Read more at Crux.