In a March 22 congressional hearing led by Republican U.S. Rep. Chris Smith of New Jersey, political refugees from Nicaragua testified about the brutal persecution they and many others have suffered under the Communist dictator Daniel Ortega on account of their Catholic faith and for their defense of democracy and the rule of law.
Congresswoman Maria Salazar denounced the oppression in a direct address to the dictator, telling him, “Your days are numbered.”
The House Foreign Affairs joint subcommittee hearing entitled “The Ortega-Murillo Regime’s War Against the Catholic Church and Civil Society in Nicaragua: Bishop Alvarez, Political Prisoners, and Prisoners of Conscience” included testimony from Felix Maradiaga and Juan Sebastian Chamorro — political prisoners deported by Ortega to the U.S. in February and stripped of their nationality — together with human rights advocate Bianca Jagger.
The hearing came just a day after White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby admitted at a press briefing that he was “not tracking” the persecution of Nicaragua Bishop Rolando Alvarez, Ortega’s most hated enemy.
Introducing the hearing, Smith denounced “the extreme repression that the Ortega-Murillo regime is committing against the people of Nicaragua.”
“Under President Daniel Ortega, Nicaragua has become a pariah dictatorship in league with other human rights abusers like Cuba, Venezuela, Russia, Iran, North Korea and the People’s Republic of China,” Smith said. “Ortega is waging a war against religious freedom, and he is targeting the Catholic Church as the single most important independent institution remaining in Nicaragua.”
Salazar, in a fiery opening statement, castigated the Ortega regime, saying, “The Catholic Church is under siege. Almost three quarters of Nicaraguans belong to the Catholic Church. To have complete control over them the now dictator and chief Daniel Ortega needs to replace the Almighty God with his dictatorship. And that is why he is systematically hunting down and silencing the most sacred sovereign institution in Nicaragua’s history, the Catholic Church. The Church is the last, the loudest voice against his regime.”
Detailing the more than 400 attacks on the Church in recent years, Salazar continued, “In 2018, police went into the Divine Mercy parish located in Managua and locked in young protesters and rained bullets on them. They were looking for sanctuary, but instead they found death. In 2020, a firebomb was thrown in Managua’s cathedral destroying the famous image of [the] ‘Blood of Christ’ and an almost 400-year-old crucifix beloved by thousands and thousands of Nicaraguans.”
“Last year, Daniel Ortega escalated his attacks on the faithful. He ordered the dissolution of hundreds of NGOs, he expelled 18 of Mother Teresa’s nuns, holy women, who worked in the most dangerous areas in Nicaragua … As a journalist working for Univision, I interviewed those women; they were saints, and I felt their holiness when I walked into their humble clinic and spoke to them for hours.”
“He also shut down 19 Catholic radio and television stations. Not only that, last month, he broke relations with the Vatican and they are to expel the Apostolic Nuncio.”
“And now he wants us to be impressed by his goodness. A few weeks ago, he released you, 222 political prisoners, to the United States. He let them go, some of you, free, but he took away your citizenship, your families, your property, everything except your lives.”
“If Ortega were to be so compassionate … then Bishop Rolando Alvarez would have not been sentenced to 26 years in the most brutal prison called La Modelo for leading a powerful demonstration just crying for freedom.”
“From Managua, the message is clear: Ortega has made Nicaragua a prison for anyone who kneels to God the Father [and] la Santissima Virgen. In a shocking moment of clarity, Pope Francis himself called Ortega the new Hitler and compared the Sandinista movement to the Russian revolution.”
Addressing Ortega directly, Salazar then declared, “You would be wise to remember that the Catholic Church throughout history has defeated greater demons than you and your Satanic wife Rosario Murillo. It must humiliate you that everyone knows that despite your title of president, she has the real power. For that reason, it won’t surprise anyone that you are too small of a man to take down a 2,000-year-old legendary institution.”
Pointing then to the biblical account in the Book of Daniel, Salazar compared Ortega with the last king of Babylon, who “was also drunk on power and defied God.” Excoriating Ortega, she said, “Then the writing on the wall appeared, and the warning is the same for you. Your days are numbered, you have been measured and failed, and everything you have stolen from the people of Nicaragua will turn to ash.”
Felix Maradiaga, a former presidential candidate arrested by Ortega in 2021, declared of the regime, “I know from painful personal experience throughout my life that dictatorships cannot be dismantled with timid methods. There are people in Nicaragua willing to fight peacefully for freedom, but we cannot do it alone.”
Maradiaga detailed that in 2021 Ortega imprisoned “all the main opposition candidates and other civil society leaders.”
“By arresting us all, Ortega has made it clear that he has no chance of winning a free and competitive election. He also has no political will to do so because his sinister plan is to consolidate a family dictatorship.
“The most recent victim of that plan is the Catholic Church of Nicaragua, which is the only institution that stood in his way. Before, Ortega and his repression agencies had been persecuting, imprisoning, and extrajudicially killing peasants, students, and activists who seek to peacefully stop the dictatorship. The new phase of repression can only be defined as religious persecution.”
Offering details of the persecution, Maradiaga said that “on several occasions the Sandinista Police has forbidden parishioners from receiving the Eucharist inside the temple and does not allow religious celebration in the open, such as the recent prohibition of the ‘Via Crucis.’”
Maradiaga’s testimony was taken along with that of Sebastian Chamorro, another former presidential candidate who was kidnapped by police at his house during the night in front of his wife and daughter. His location was not disclosed to his family until three months later.
Recounting his experience in prison, Chamorro related, “As political prisoner, I suffered arbitrary detention and jail, inhumane treatments, threats, constant interrogations and [was] subject to punishments if I did not obey the rules. I was condemned to 13 years in prison in a fake trial, I was banished from my country and stripped from my nationality.”
Detailing the way in which he drew courage from Bishop Alvarez and the priests and seminarians arrested with him, with whom they shared imprisonment, Chamorro said, “We shared jail with them and saw their sufferings but also their strength, given by the faith and the strong ideals and principles of their leader, our pastor Alvarez.”
“So, the question is: Why Ortega’s war against the Church? The reason is simple. After putting all the opposition in jail, repressing all forms of protests, the dictator had to deal with the last standing voice defending freedom, peace and human dignity. Ortega had to silence the voice of the Church in order to impose his message of hate and violence.”
“Mr. Chairman, Ortega’s violence goes beyond members of the Church. By prohibiting processions during Holy Week, he is repressing millions who march every year on Good Friday with devotion to express their faith.”
Jagger, echoing a call for more sanctions on Nicaragua, also demanded, out of fear for Bishop Alvarez’s safety, that the Ortega regime certify proof of his life to the international community….
Full story at LifeSiteNews.
Marxism never goes well for people of faith, any faith (except the “religion” of Marxism). Since the rise of Communism in the 19th century, every pope since and through Pope Benedict XVI has publicly condemned socialism and communism. Catholics (both Eastern and Latin) and others suffered severely under Soviet Communism. By God’s grace, may we never again go down a similar road. And, let us pray for our brothers and sisters and others in Nicaragua, Venezuela, China and other places.
Most notably, Pope Francis has never condemned Communist Russia, or despot Putin, but has instead criticized the West’s sanctions against Russia.
“Axiom” is very wrong. Pope Francis and the Holy See have condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Back in August 2022 the Holy See stated: “As for the large-scale war in Ukraine, initiated by the Russian Federation, the interventions of the Holy Father Pope Francis are clear and unequivocal in condemning it as morally unjust, unacceptable, barbaric, senseless, repugnant and sacrilegious.” “Axiom’s” misrepresentation of Pope Francis’ position is disgraceful and is tantamount to calumny. Calumny is sinful. “Axiom” is categorically corrected here.
“jon” – As you are the expert in pointing out others’ sins on this forum, you must know that Pride is THE fundamental sin. I would characterize a person who is smug and self-righteous as being prideful. You seem to be oblivious.
And honestly, if you want a window into my soul, whenever I have to correct a poster for his/her egregiously wrong, uncharitable, and unjust statement about the Holy Father and any of the bishops of the Church (such as yours up there) my feeling has never been that of pride, but of SHOCK, outrage, and dismay that a person such as you can be so flagrantly unjust, scandalous, and uncharitable in your comments about the Pope and the rest of the bishops of the Church. So, again “Axiom” is wrong.
But, isn’t it true that Pope Francis is the only pope since Pope Pius IX (in the late 1800’s) to not publicly condemn socialism and communism?
The Church’s critique of communism and socialism is well-known and solid. Why should Pope Francis have to repeat them? To kow-tow to the Americans? Pope Francis does not feel the need to curry to Westerners like us, much to the annoyance of certain “Catholics” in our part of the world such as those who would rather follow the “magisterium” of Marshall, Kwasnewski, Fr. Z, Fellay, whose “bibles” are the Wanderer and the Remnant, and whose media arm are sites such as Church Militant. Pope Francis is the leader of a global Church, many of whom live in the poor “south”, not in the affluent “north” of Western Europe and North America; plus he himself is from the “Southern Hemisphere.”
His care and heart is for the poor, and he doesn’t like it that the communists and socialists seem to have a captive constituency among the poor in the “south.” No, Pope Francis is not a communist nor a socialist. That’s a very simplistic, naive, and puerile analysis. Rather he is subverting communists and socialists; if he could pry them out of their atheism, he would be very happy. Notice how he called communists “closet Christians.” That’s telling.
This is the kind of demonic force that attacks Pope Francis continually.
Let us pray for our Sovereign Pontiff Pope Francis.
May the Lord preserve him and give him life and make him blessed upon the earth and yield him not up to the will of his enemies.
An attack on Pope Francis is an attack on Jesus Christ.
Insinuations are attacks. They are meant to destroy confidence in the Pope and the Church.
jon, the Church’s acceptance of LGBTQ persons is also “well-known and solid.” Why should Cardinal McElroy have to keep repeating it?
The Church’s preferential option for the poor is also well-known and solid. Was Bishop MIchael Olson (Fort Worth) wrong to repeat that recently?
Maybe some things are worth repeating.
Maybe we should tell our spouses and children that we love them, even if we’ve already done so.
Should we continue to warn people of the dangers of fentanyl and other opioids?
How difficult would it be for the Pope to simply say Communism is wrong when speaking in defense of his brother bishops in Nicaragua and China?
“Curious’s” initial comment was to ask whether or not it’s true that Pope Francis hasn’t denounced communism and socialism. And that is the specific question I was addressing: the need to condemn socialism and communism as a form of government: I wasn’t talking about fentanyl or LGBTQ. Now “Curious” pivots by asking about the Pope having to “speak in defense of his brother bishops in Nicaragua and China.” “Curious” shifts his/her own question/query from a form of government to the atrocities committed by a regime. Speaking up against such atrocities Pope Francis has done very recently when he described Bishop Alvarez’ sentence by Ortega’s government thusly: “It is something out of line with reality; it is as if we were bringing back the communist dictatorship of 1917 or the Hitler dictatorship of 1935…They are a type of vulgar dictatorships…With much respect, I have no choice but to think that the person who leads [Daniel Ortega] is unstable.”
jon, my point was to your questioning why the Pope should have to repeat previous popes. Some things are worth repeating. As I asked, the Church’s acceptance of LGBTQ persons is also “well-known and solid.” Why should Cardinal McElroy have to keep repeating it?
Should he stop?
That question (“Why should the Pope have to repeat them”) was rhetorical, and not really meant to be answered. Obviously the Pope doesn’t feel the need at this point to repeat them. If he did he would have done so. It’s his call. Catholics must stop second-guessing their own Supreme Pontiff. It’s not good form. He’s in the hospital. You all must pray for his recovery (not for his demise).
Curious, what does he keep repeating?
It is also very harmful to your mind and soul.
Have confidence in Christ.
what repeating, jon questioned why Pope Francis should repeat previous popes condemnations of socialism. I asked if he thought Cardinal McElroy should keep repeating that the Church accepts LGBTQ persons and he has not answered that question. Should bishops (including the pope) repeat “well-known and solid” (to use jon’s words) Catholic teaching, whether condemnations of socialism or acceptance of all persons?
I think some things are worth repeating. Not everyone heard (or was even alive) the first time.
Axiom has at least one thumbs down that got removed.
We are finally hearing from some neo-con types regretting their support for the Second Iraq War. Will we hear from any “Sandalista” SJ types regretting their support of Ortega and his red-buds in the 1980s?
And silence from Rome.
Stand by comment this is what the Jesuit said: “through an open and sincere dialogue, the basis for a respectful and peaceful coexistence might still be found.”
That is not silence. and it was while the bishop was still under house arrest living with some relatives months before this happened.
Violence is never an option, “bohemond” who had contemplated doing physical harm to a priest of the Church. Shameful.
Violence is never an option? So it is immoral to be a police officer or a soldier? Nonsense.
It would be immoral to violently stop a rape or a murder? Nonsense.
There is moral violence and there is immoral violence.
Violence is not intrinsically evil.
Pedantic jon is wrong.
yes, violence is an option that Christians reject.
Someone could become a police officer or a soldier because while you might have to resort to violence in a certain situation, one does not become them in order to get away with doing violence. That would be sinful.
As weird as it sounds, killing a person is evil but the guilt is not imputed to the soul who killed if they had a necessity such as defense or war.
It is still a terrible thing to commit any kind of violence.
I think of the poor police officer that was on the scene when a school was breeched by a shooter and she had to kill him. It was the brother of a co-worker. He understood but it is not something good. She had to protect the school.
People who use violence to stop heinous evils are heroes.
Kyle Rittenhouse. Hero.
American Sniper Chris Kyle. Hero.
Threatening to do violent harm to a priest is wrong and this is what “bohemond” threatened to do. It is criminal. He best change his name.
jon, he did not threaten to do violent harm to a priest. He said it was good he did not recognize who he was when he saw him. There is a huge difference. That is not criminal and you need to stop bearing false witness.
While the implication is that if he had recognized him, he may have done or said something that the priest would not have liked, it really did not rise to a criminal threat level.
Your rant against bohemond and calling him a criminal, and then telling him he “best change his name”, sounds like a threat to me. Someone here is losing his grip on reality.
I beg to differ with “the threat.” The subsequent comment after “bohemond’s” was from a commenter who typed “spoken like a real man.” That kind of observation is not typically ascribed to a man who merely wanted to “talk” to someone. Therefore, to those who saw that comment, it was understood that what “bohemond” meant was doing something physical. It is not up to “the threat” to judge what or what doesn’t “rise to criminal threat level.” “Bohemond’s” comment was out-of-line at the least (which has no room in a Catholic site like this) and so some sort of apology and denunciation of violence is advisable. At the worst, the comment indicated the state of “bohemond’s” mind which is to inflict violence. It was a wrong comment. “Bohemond” should correct it.
jon at 9:56 Yes to all the above.
“Yes” to what?
That the commenter who replied made it look worse than it was. Both comments were out of line especially for Catholics. He could apologize and denounce violence but he won’t without some kind of divine intervention.
There are laws over what can be criminally charged as a threat on the Internet. bohemond’s comment did not rise to that level. There was no real threat of physical violence. He did not threaten violence to a priest.
It could be taken that way, I agree. He really just said that he missed his opportunity. He did not say that he was going to target that priest.
People, this is important: in light of the kind of extreme political rhetoric that goes on these days in our society, and in light of horrifying events that happen out there such in Nashville most recently, there must never be found among the disciples of Christ even a whiff of an inclination to violence, nor even recourse to it. Violence found among Christians/Catholics discredits the veracity of the Gospel of peace. Remember that news-story about the FBI investigating rad-trad Catholics for their bigotry and hatred? If some of you people continue in your hateful and bombastic comments, aren’t you lending credence to such investigations? Think well upon this.
Why when you give jon a thumbs up does it disappear?
The governor of TN today reminds us that the struggle is not against flesh and blood but against evil.
Violence is evil. (and no, smarties, not the police action.)
Criticizing heads of religion is evil.
Picking fights with other Christians is evil.
Be perfect as your Heavenly Father is Perfect.
if Ortega ever dared to cross MY path,
he would receive a chile greeting
Let us pray for the safety of Bishop Alvarez and for his release.
Eternal rest to all those who have been killed O Lord and let perpetual light shine upon them. May they rest in peace. Amen.
Grant an outpouring of the Holy Spirit on Daniel Ortega. May he repent and convert and believe in the Good News of the Gospel.
This is awful, and my response is not intended as somehow saying that Alvarez got what he deserved. Before you criticize this response ask yourself if you pray for Bishop Alvarez, by name, every day as some of us do. To tell the whole story we need to throw into the mix the fact that Bishop Alvarez has been a ruthless persecutor of priests who desired to offer the Traditional Latin Mass, unjustly stripping them of their faculties. Marxist “Catholics” who denied the true Faith were part and parcel of the Sandinista revolution in the first place. Chickens always come home to roost. Revolutions eat their own. This is an injustice and, if it is in God’s plan, it will be remedied. One can only hope that part of this whole, sad story will be the conversion of Msgr. Alvarez.
I supported the Contras and Oliver North and Ronald Reagan and Caspar Weinberger during that era. That was when America got good things done.
Christians are being attacked in America too. A deranged trans (redundant) mass-murderer went on a rampage in a Christian school today in Nashville.
Your “thumbs” aren’t working properly. Sometimes clicking on one lowers the number and sometimes it raises it.