Pope Francis allegedly compared Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega's government to a communist or Nazi dictatorship, which caused the country's Catholic Church to consider severing ties with the Vatican.
The ongoing conflict between the Nicaraguan government and the Vatican has been arising, for the current administration has been making actions that are being considered attacks on the Catholic community. The government of Nicaragua has made efforts in making moves against the church that are believed to be "Terrorists."
According to AP News, the relationship between the church and the Nicaraguan government had declined since 2018, when the government violently suppressed anti-government protests. Catholic leaders sheltered protesters in their churches, and the church later tried to mediate between the regime and the opposition.
Ortega accused Catholic figures who supported the opposition as an anit-government that wanted to overthrow him. Several religious figures were arrested or fled the country, and two congregations of nuns were expelled last year. A prominent Catholic bishop was also sentenced to 26 years in prison last month after refusing to leave the country.
Universities Related to Catholic Church Recently Got Shut Down
The Nicaraguan government has recently shut down two universities concerning the Catholic Church, leading to the proposal of a suspension of diplomatic relations between Nicaragua and the Vatican. According to France 24, the Nicaraguan Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated that the break was due to information divulged by sources close to the Catholic Church.
The statement did not mention comments made by Pope Francis in a recent interview where he called the Nicaraguan president "unbalanced." The closed universities had their legal status canceled due to alleged law infringements. All information on students, professors, and study plans was ordered to be handed to the National Council of Universities.
The universities' thousands of students will be integrated into other approved institutions, and all university property will be transferred to the state.
Also Read: Pope Francis Speaks Out for Imprisoned Bishop in Nicaragua: A Cry for Justice and Freedom
The Tension Between the Catholic Church and Nicaragua's Government
Tensions between the Nicaraguan government and the Catholic Church began in 2018 when the authorities violently repressed anti-government protests. According to Euro News, some Catholic leaders offered shelter to protesters in their churches, and the church attempted to mediate between the government and the opposition.
However, President Daniel Ortega accused Catholic figures who sympathized with the resistance of supporting efforts to overthrow him, leading to the arrest or expulsion of dozens of religious figures and two congregations of nuns.
The Episcopal Curia of Matagalpa was under a two-week-long siege by the Nicaraguan police in August 2022. Bishop Lávarez, three priests, and four other hostages were being held there. They were eventually detained and given a "conspiracy" term.
The Bishop received a 26-year sentence when he refused to get on a plane that would have taken him to exile in the US. An earnest and capable guy who wished to deliver his testimony and refused exile is a bishop who is currently imprisoned in Nicaragua, according to the pope's remark on the matter.
Related Article: US Government Should Seek Release of Nicaragua's Bishop, says US Commission on International Religious Freedom