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Nicaragua’s bishops try to free a parish under siege by Ortega forces

After it was confirmed that a man was killed in a Catholic parish in Nicaragua on Saturday, where a group of students, priests and journalists were hiding from the pro-government forces, a cardinal and the papal representative in the country went to the site to try to mediate while dozens of people, including several wounded, were still locked in the church.

“Cardinal Leopoldo José Brenes and the Apostolic Nuncio are already in the Parish of Divine Mercy, and they managed to have an ambulance allowed in to transfer the wounded,” said a statement made on Facebook by the Archdiocese of Managua, the country’s capital, on Saturday morning.

“They continue to mediate to take all the students out. Let’s continue to pray for peace in Nicaragua, for the bishops and for the priests who fulfill their prophetic mission,” the note said.

An hour earlier, the same page had announced that the cardinal and Polish Archbishop Waldemar Stanislaw Sommertag were on their way to the parish to mediate, trying to ensure that students and priests who were “attacked throughout the night can come out.”

Having spoken with the priests inside the parish, the archdiocese also announced that a young man named Gerald Vázquez had been killed by a shotgun blast to the head. By the time the two prelates arrived, the parish had been under siege for over 16 hours.

“May God have mercy on his soul and console his family,” they wrote. “We hope that no more blood of our brothers is spilled.”

This is the second time in a week that the Catholic hierarchy has mediated among young people, the army and the para-military forces loyal to President Daniel Ortega.

Protests against Ortega and his wife, Vice President Rosario Murillo, began in April after a failed reform attempt of the country’s social security system, and have escalated since. Beyond rescuing students and protestors barricaded in Catholic churches, the bishops have played a key role in attempting to facilitate dialogue among all parties included.

However, the bishops have stipulated two conditions for the conversations to go forward – Ortega must resign and new national elections must be called, steps to which Ortega and his wife, who’s been in power since 2007, have not agreed. On July 7, they said they would ignore calls for early elections.

Read more at Crux.

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