Nicaragua’s government said Sunday it has proposed suspending relations with the Vatican. The announcement follows Pope Francis’ comments comparing President Daniel Ortega’s administration to a communist or Nazi dictatorship.
In an interview with Argentine media outlet Infobae, Pope Francis stated “it is something from outside of what we are living, as if it were a communist dictatorship in 1917 or a Hitlerian one in 1935″.
Pope Francis has previously remained silent on the issue to supposedly avoid inflaming tensions.
The comments come amid an ongoing crackdown on the Catholic Church in the Central American country. Relations began to sour in 2018, when authorities violently repressed anti-government protests.
Some Catholic leaders offered shelter in their churches – and the church later tried to act as a mediator between the regime and opposition.
However, Nicaragua’s President Daniel Ortega branded Catholic figures he viewed as sympathetic to the opposition as “terrorists” who had backed efforts to overthrow him. Dozens of religious figures have been arrested or fled the country. Two congregations of nuns were also expelled last year.
In August 2022, Nicaraguan police imposed a siege of more than two weeks around the Episcopal Curia of Matagalpa. Bishop Álvarez was held captive along with three priests and four other people, who were later arrested and sentenced for “conspiracy.”
In Nicaragua “we have a bishop in prison, a very serious and capable man, who wanted to give his testimony and did not accept exile,” Francis said, referring to Catholic Bishop Álvarez.
The Bishop was sentenced to 26 years in prison last month after he refused to board an airplane that would have flown him to exile in the United States.