Vatican closes embassy in Nicaragua after Ortega crackdown
The Vatican has closed its embassy in Nicaragua after the country’s government proposed suspending diplomatic relations
VATICAN CITY — The Vatican said on Saturday it had closed its embassy in Nicaragua after the country’s government proposed suspending diplomatic ties, the latest installment in a year-long crackdown on the Catholic Church by the administration. Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega.
The Vatican representative in Managua, Monsignor Marcel Diouf, also left the country on Friday, bound for Costa Rica, a Vatican official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The Vatican’s action came a week after the Nicaraguan government proposed suspending relations with the Holy See, and a year after Nicaragua forced the then papal ambassador out.
It is unclear what the proposed suspension would entail in diplomatic terms.
Custody of the Vatican embassy, or nunciature, has been entrusted to the Italian government, according to diplomatic conventions, reported Vatican News, the official media of the Holy See. He said diplomats from the European Union, Germany, France and Italy gave Diouf a farewell salute before he closed the diplomatic post and left.
Relations between the church and Ortega’s government have deteriorated since 2018, when Nicaraguan authorities violently suppressed anti-government protests.
Some Catholic leaders harbored protesters in their churches, and the church then tried to act as a mediator between the government and the political opposition.
Ortega called Catholic figures he considered sympathetic to the opposition “terrorists” who had supported efforts to overthrow him. Dozens of religious figures have been arrested or fled the country.
Two congregations of nuns, including those of the Order of Missionaries of Charity founded by Mother Teresa, were expelled from Nicaragua last year.
Prominent Catholic Bishop Rolando Álvarez was sentenced to 26 years in prison last month after refusing to board a plane carrying other exiled priests to the United States. He was also stripped of his Nicaraguan nationality.
Pope Francis had remained largely silent on the issue, apparently unwilling to stir up tensions. But in a March 10 interview with Argentine news outlet Infobae, after Alvarez’s conviction, he called Ortega’s government a “crass dictatorship” comparable to Hitler’s led by an “unbalanced” president.