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UN calls on Nicaragua to free Bishop Álvarez and other political prisoners

Bishop Rolando Álvarez of the Diocese of Matagalpa, Nicaragua. / Credit: Diocese of Matagalpa

ACI Prensa Staff, Mar 7, 2023 / 13:15 pm (CNA).

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has called on the Nicaraguan dictatorship to release Bishop Rolando Álvarez and other political prisoners.

The Daniel Ortega dictatorship in Nicaragua sentenced the bishop of Matagalpa to 26 years and four months in prison on Feb. 10 on several charges that included being a “traitor to the homeland.”

The sentence against Álvarez was issued just one day after the regime deported 222 political prisoners to the United States. The exiles and the bishop were stripped of their Nicaraguan citizenship based on a law passed Feb. 9.

Álvarez refused to board the plane that would have taken him to freedom unless he first could meet and consult with the priests already aboard the plane and also the Nicaraguan bishops, a request that was denied and that Ortega later called “absurd.” 

For his refusal to comply with the Managua Court of Appeals’ deportation order, the prelate was found in contempt of authority, which added to his sentence. Álvarez is reportedly being held in a maximum security cell.

“We call on the State of Nicaragua to unconditionally release the 37 people who are still arbitrarily deprived of their liberty, including Bishop Álvarez, whose state of health is unknown,” stated the OHCHR in a March 3 update on the situation in Nicaragua.

The U.N. agency also urged the Daniel Ortega regime to “restore citizenship and other civil, political, social, and economic rights to the more than 300 people affected by the recent decisions.”

Other human rights violations in Nicaragua

The update also reported various human rights violations in trials initiated between January and February against people “arbitrarily detained since August 2022.”

“This includes hearings behind closed doors, denying some defendants their right to a lawyer of their choice and to meet with him or her in private, and access to the complete files on their cases,” the U.N. office charged.

In addition, “some of the defendants may not have had timely or complete knowledge of the charges against them or the sentences handed down against them, which prevented them from challenging them,” the OHCHR said.

“The office has also documented the application of sentences not provided for in the Nicaraguan Penal Code, even retroactively to those who were sentenced last year,” the statement continued.

The OHCHR noted that the Nicaraguan dictatorship “reportedly canceled the legal personhood of 40 civil society organizations — a total of more than 3,200 since 2018 — and confiscated the facilities of two other organizations, now used by the state.”

The office also pointed out that many people have their rights restricted for not having an ID card showing membership in the Ortega’s Sandinista National Liberation Front political party.

“Without this document, many Nicaraguans face limited possibilities of obtaining or maintaining a job in the public sector, of accessing higher education,” and “some people were denied the opportunity to obtain scholarships,” the U.N. agency said.

Not having the ID card also prevents access to “health services, as in the case of a person who may possibly be denied surgery until he or she registers with the party” or with the country’s Social Protection Network, a type of welfare program.

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

Mexican bishops condemn police pursuit, violent arrest of migrants on cathedral grounds

Cathedral of Ciudad Juárez, Mexico. / Credit: Alejandro Rosales (CC BY-SA 4.0)

ACI Prensa Staff, Mar 6, 2023 / 15:30 pm (CNA).

The bishops of Mexico roundly condemned the intrusion of Ciudad Juárez municipal police onto cathedral grounds in order to violently arrest a group of migrants.

The Ciudad Juárez Cathedral and its facilities have long been one of the places where migrants are received, as the city sits on the opposite side of the Rio Grande from El Paso, Texas.

Among the people served by the cathedral are those who are waiting for appointments to regularize their immigration status in Mexico or those who seek to reach the United States because they see no future in their country of origin.

In a March 2 statement, the Mexican Bishops’ Conference’s migrant ministry strongly criticized the police for charging into the cathedral’s dining facilities to pursue some migrants, “using violence to physically and psychologically harm the people,” leaving at least one person injured.

The conference also strongly condemned these types of events where police act arbitrarily and without adherence to legal protocols, violating people’s human rights.

Given what happened, the migrant ministry announced that it will file “the corresponding complaints to the competent authorities and against whoever is responsible.”

“It is inadmissible for the authorities of any level of government to enter humanitarian assistance facilities for migrants and violate said places, which are also places dedicated to religious worship,” the statement stressed.

The bishop of Ciudad Juárez, José Guadalupe Torres Campos, also noted, in another statement, his “dissatisfaction with the way in which they acted” and asked “that this type of situation not be repeated neither at the cathedral or in any other shelter in our city.”

Torres explained that a meeting was held on March 2 with the secretary of municipal public security, César Omar Muñoz Morales, in order to prevent these violent acts from being repeated.

In his statement Torres said that Muñoz “promised that similar situations would not be repeated, giving precise instructions for collaboration and monitoring of respect for human rights.”

“Trusting that we can all work together in all social work for the good of those most in need, I raise my prayer to Our Lady of Guadalupe, patroness of our cathedral and Empress of America, to help us all to see ourselves as children of the same God and brothers among us,” the bishop concluded.

According to Mexican news reports, the city police tried to stop and check the IDs of a group of foreign migrants. However, only the National Migration Institute’s agents have the authority to check migrants’ IDs. The migrants fled and the police pursued them into the cathedral’s dining area, where they were violently arrested.

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

Aid to the Church in Need ‘greatly concerned’ about Nicaraguan bishop sentenced to prison

Bishop Rolando Álvarez of Matagalpa, Nicaragua. / Credit: ACN

ACI Prensa Staff, Mar 3, 2023 / 17:30 pm (CNA).

The pontifical foundation Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) expressed its concern for the situation of the Catholic Church in Nicaragua and for Bishop Rolando Álvarez, who was sentenced on Feb. 9 to 26 years and four months in prison by the Daniel Ortega dictatorship.

“In union with Pope Francis, who expressed his sadness and concern on Feb. 12 after praying the Angelus, the ACN foundation asks the faithful to not forget the terrible situation that Álvarez, the bishop of Matagalpa and apostolic administrator of the Diocese of Estelí, is going through and requests prayers for him and for all those who are suffering in Nicaragua,” said a recent statement from ACN.

Citing a Feb. 14 article in the media outlet Nicaragua Actual, ACN warned that the regime is apparently arresting priests who mention Álvarez in their Masses, considered to be “a prohibited activity.”

“At least two priests were arrested in Madriz and Nueva Segovia for mentioning or praying for the bishop during their Sunday celebrations,” the statement said. Both towns are in the Diocese of Esteli.

According to Nicaragua Actual, the two were released hours later with the warning not to mention the bishop again. 

“For all these reasons, given the attempt to silence the prayers of the Nicaraguan people, ACN asks benefactors around the world to further redouble their prayers for the Nicaraguan Church,” the foundation urged.

Thus the Church in Nicaragua will be able to feel that it is “accompanied in the challenge that it is experiencing at this time and can continue to proclaim the Gospel and accompany its people, especially the weakest and poorest,” ACN said.

“The foundation is dismayed by the news it regularly receives of priests who have not been allowed to return to the country, of visa restrictions for men and women religious, of the control and surveillance of the movements of priests and bishops, listening in on homilies as well as the prohibition of processions and religious celebrations,” the statement noted.

In August 2022, Regina Lynch, ACN’s director of international projects, stated at that time that she was already observing “an attempt to silence the Church in Nicaragua.”

One of the latest low points in the Nicaraguan dictatorship’s persecution of the Church was the recent sentencing of Álvarez to 26 years and four months in prison as a “traitor to the homeland” convicted of “undermining national security and sovereignty” and “spreading fake news.” The bishop was also stripped of his Nicaraguan citizenship.

Álvarez refused to be deported along with 222 other political prisoners, who were flown to Washington, D.C., on Feb. 9 in a deal with the U.S. State Department. He is apparently locked up in a maximum security cell in the Nicaraguan prison known as “Modelo.”

The deportees included some priests, seminarians, and a layman who had been sentenced to 10 years in prison.

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

‘God really intervened’: How a Catholic priest escaped from his kidnappers in Haiti

Father Antoine Macaire Christian Noah escaped from his kidnappers in Haiti, February 2023. / Credit: Father Fausto Cruz Rosa, Superior Major of the Antilles Delegation of the Claretian Missionaries

ACI Prensa Staff, Mar 3, 2023 / 12:45 pm (CNA).

Father Antoine Macaire Christian Noah, a Claretian priest from Cameroon, escaped unharmed from a crime gang that had kidnapped him in Haiti last month and has been taken to another country for his safety. 

On March 2, Father Fausto Cruz Rosa, major superior of the Antilles Delegation of the Claretian Missionaries, told ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner, that Macaire “was kidnapped [and] held in isolation for 10 days in an abandoned house on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince,” the Haitian capital.

“On the 10th day, when [the kidnappers] had left, he was able to escape. The criminals went out frequently at night and left him locked up in one of the houses that gangs usually take over in Haiti,” he explained.

Macaire, 33, who was ordained fewer than two years ago, was kidnapped the morning of Feb. 7 when he was on his way to his missionary community in Kazal, about 20 miles north of Port-au-Prince.

He is currently in Santo Domingo, the capital of the Dominican Republic, where he was sent and received by his congregation.

Cruz recounted that around 1 a.m. local time on Feb. 17, Macaire had to make a hole in the ceiling of the room where he had been confined to get outside, and then he started running until he reached a road.

“He ran a lot until 5:30 a.m., until he reached a neighboring town called Cabaret. There, a well-known priest took him in at the parish. He was there for a few days until we managed to take him to the island of Gonave, and later to the capital, heading toward the airport,” he said.

According to Cruz, the young priest was returning to Haiti after conducting the spiritual exercises for his delegation in the Dominican Republic.

After getting off the plane, Macaire took a bus that was intercepted by a crime gang.

“Apparently they only took him because he’s a foreigner. That’s the strategy they always use. And then they took him to the place where they held him,” the leader of the Claretian delegation related.

Days in captivity

Cruz noted that the African priest “didn’t feel afraid because he prayed to his patron saint, St. Anthony of Padua,” as well as to St. Anthony Mary Claret and the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

“He is a person of much prayer, very spiritual, very serene. The kidnappers were surprised how the priest could endure, because they only gave him food four times in 10 days and a little water,” he recounted.

According to the major superior, “the prayers of the whole world” were very helpful, and he is sure that “God really intervened, because to feel that strength, that courage, that secureness, bravery is required to escape and come out unharmed.”

Cruz emphasized that Macaire is “willing to return to Haiti as soon as possible.”

“However, we’ve recommended that he be away for the time being,” he added.

The current situation in Haiti

Haiti is involved in a deep political and social crisis. It has not had a president since July 2021, when President Jovenel Moïse was assassinated, and no new elections have been held. The struggle for power has worsened the protests and the violence carried out by armed gangs and kidnappers.

“Right now the gangs are the ones that practically hold power. The police can hardly do anything; they have even killed many of them and they’re afraid. The priests went to file a complaint and they were told that they couldn’t do anything,” Cruz explained.

According to the major superior, Macaire would ask the kidnappers why they commit such acts, and they replied that “the situation is complicated” and that they “don’t see a future.”

“We now pray for the kidnappers, for their conversion and for the whole situation of insecurity and violence that the Haitian people are going through. We pray that the Lord will continue to hear us and that soon the country will find some way out of the conflict,” Cruz concluded.

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

Thousands in Mexico march in defense of the family and children

Thousands of people demonstrated in front of the Congress of the Union, Mexico’s federal legislature, demanding that lawmakers draft and pass laws protecting the true rights of Mexican women and children. / Credit: National Front for the Family

ACI Prensa Staff, Mar 2, 2023 / 16:45 pm (CNA).

Thousands of people demonstrated in front of the Congress of the Union, Mexico’s federal legislature, earlier this week demanding that lawmakers draft and pass laws protecting the true rights of Mexican women and children.

The march, held in Mexico City, was called by the Citizens’ Initiative and the National Front for the Family (FNF) platforms.

According to a statement, Rosa Mary Morales, spokeswoman for the FNF, charged during the massive demonstration that some groups seek to “impose their ideas and seek to sow fear in legislators, the people, and even the media.”

“They don’t understand that Mexico is a [different reality] and that we all want peace and tranquility for ourselves and our children,” she said.

Morales said that the pro-family platforms “are against harming children with puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones, and the amputation of healthy body parts that cause irreversible damage to children.”

The march participants expressed their support for bills such as those introduced by Congresswoman América Rangel in the Mexico City Congress and Mónica Rodríguez Della Vecchia in the Puebla state legislature. Both bills seek to prohibit and penalize hormonal and surgical sex-change treatments for children.

In addition, they encouraged federal congresswoman María Teresa Castell to introduce a similar bill in the national legislature.

During the march, participants also demanded that the right of parents to choose the type of education they want for their children be respected. In addition, marchers demanded that women be valued and respected, and that terms such as “pregnant persons” not be used.

Ruth Sánchez, the National Coordinator of Women of Initiative, stressed during the event: “I am a woman and I demand, on behalf of all the women of Mexico, that our position as women be respected. We cannot be erased and reduced to the simple term of pregnant persons. No one can be what they are not. One is a woman from the womb of our mothers.”

“We are women and we not only menstruate or gestate, we also think, work, support, and contribute from different situations to society, to our families, and that gives us the right to be taken into account and that everything that cost us decades of struggle be respected,” she said.

The pro-family advocates also opposed the package of reforms on “substantive equality” and “gender equity” that the Congress of the Union has had among its pending issues for some years and that includes changes to the constitution that would open the doors to abortion and gender ideology.

Speaking during the demonstration, former senator Lisbeth Hernández demanded that Mexican legislators “respect and observe international treaties and not amend our constitution, that they always legislate from a family perspective, that they respect and promote the family consisting of a man and a woman.”

“And, above all, given the high rate of violence that our country is going through, that the right to life be recognized and promoted, as well as the emotional stability of our children,” she urged.

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

Mexican bishops respond to data showing increasingly fewer Catholics in their country

Faithful pray at the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City. / Credit: Shutterstock

ACI Prensa Staff, Mar 2, 2023 / 11:34 am (CNA).

One of the challenges facing the bishops of the Catholic Church in Mexico is the decrease in the number of faithful in the country where Our Lady of Guadalupe, Empress of America, appeared.

According to data from the 2020 Population and Housing Census cited by the Mexican bishops, Catholics in the country constitute 77.7% of the population, or about 98 million people.

In 1950, Catholics constituted 98.2% of the population; by 1980 the number dropped to 92.6%. In 1990 it continued to decrease down to 89.7%, and in the year 2000 Catholics made up 87.9% of the population.

In 2010, the percentage fell to 82.7% and in 2020 it was down to 77.7%.

Based on the figures for 1950, as of the last census in 2020, the number of Catholics in Mexico has decreased by 20.5%.

To serve these faithful, the Church in Mexico has 19 ecclesiastical provinces consisting of 19 archdioceses and 79 dioceses.

The number of Protestants on the other hand has increased in Mexico over the same time period. In 1950 they made up 1.3% of the population; in 1960 they amounted to 1.7%; in 1970 to 1.8%; in 1980 to 3.2%; in 2000 they reached 7.3%; and in 2020 they were already 11.2% of the Mexican population.

On Feb. 2, the Mexican bishops published the “‘Synodal Synthesis’ for a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, and Mission,” for consideration in the 16th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, commonly referred to as the Synod on Synodality, which will have the same theme.

That synod will take place in October 2023 and 2024 in Rome and has a diocesan, continental, and universal stage. The first stage has been completed, the second is underway, and the third will take place at the Vatican.

In their Feb. 2 synthesis, the bishops acknowledge that “men and women religious as well as the lay movements had little participation” in the diocesan phase in which the majority attending were women (at 55%) and the age range was between 35 and 65 years, whereas the national average is 29.

“The laity who mostly participate in the pastoral tasks of the Church are adults (we recognize that there are very few young people), and the consultation rested mostly on them, but the dioceses that implemented electronic means and the use of social media for the consultation obtained a greater participation of young people,” explained Bishop Ramón Castro Castro, the secretary general of the Mexican Bishops’ Conference, to ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner.

“The strategies to attract young people to the Church are being permanently implemented on an ongoing basis: There are leaders, teams; there are programs and great participation by parishioners contributing to this objective,” continued Castro, the bishop of Cuernavaca. 

However, the prelate pointed out, “the dynamics of young people’s lives today face great challenges (family, school, economic, emotional, etc.) [and they] cannot always respond as we would like.”

“Definitely, yes it’s a difficult goal to achieve to draw young people to the Church. But we are neither panicking nor anguishing over it because we are working on it and some of the efforts that are being made are bearing fruit,” the Mexican bishop said.

On how to approach Catholics who have distanced themselves from the Church, Castro explained to ACI Prensa that it’s necessary to take into account that many of them “were laymen with criticisms who were not listened to at the time and, tired of being met with deaf ears, they left.”

“These brothers are mistakenly perceived as attacking the Church or even as enemies, without considering that their intentions were and continue to be good, and that their contributions can be very valuable to refresh the mind, vision, and methods of pastoral care today,” he said.

In April 2021, in his message to the 110th Plenary Assembly of the Mexican Bishops’ Conference, the then apostolic nuncio in Mexico, Archbishop Franco Coppola, noted that “the decrease in the Catholic population in this Guadalupan land is extremely worrisome.”

“We are now seeing more clearly how much — in recent decades — faith formation had not succeeded and has not succeeded, as perhaps we thought or as we would have wanted, to deeply penetrate the baptized,” he lamented.

“The effects of this notable decrease are not yet seen in the number of members of our presbyteries, because — thank God — our life expectancy has increased a lot in these years. But the median age of our [priests] goes up and up,” he said.

Coppola also pointed out that “all these data are a wake-up call for all of us.”

“When we are before him, the Lord of the harvest will ask us for an account of the talents, many, that he has entrusted to us: a Catholic people, faithful and devoted to holy Mary Guadalupe,” the apostolic nuncio to Mexico stressed.

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

Order of cloistered nuns leaves Nicaragua after 22 years

The Trappist Sisters of Nicaragua announced Feb. 27, 2023, that they are leaving Nicaragua for Panama. / Credit: Facebook Trappist Sisters of Nicaragua

ACI Prensa Staff, Mar 1, 2023 / 15:30 pm (CNA).

The Trappist Sisters of Nicaragua, whose religious order arrived from Argentina in 2001, announced that they have left the Central American country after 22 years of work and service.

In a Feb. 27 post on their Facebook page, the nuns explained: “We, the Trappist Sisters of Nicaragua, have voluntarily left the country” and said they made the decision because of “reasons the order has,” the “lack of vocations,” and the “old age of several sisters, etc.”

“We will always remain united in prayer, in friendship, and in the love that the Lord has given us during these 22 years,” they added, announcing their “new destination is Panama.”

The first Trappist sisters arrived in Nicaragua in January 2001 from the town of Hinojo in Argentina and founded the Holy Mary of Peace monastery in the Chontales district of the country.

In recent days, the nuns handed over the monastery to the Diocese of Juigalpa, which has not yet made a statement on the transfer.

Although the nuns didn’t mention anything in their communiqué about their residency status in Nicaragua, the General Directorate for Migration and Foreigners has issued summons to various religious and foreign missionaries in the last two weeks.

According to the Nicaraguan media outlet 100% Noticias, new requirements are being demanded of these religious to remain in the country.

The departure of the Trappist nuns was announced a few days after the dictatorship of Daniel Ortega, in a new attack against the Catholic Church in Nicaragua, prohibited praying the Stations of the Cross in the streets.

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

Argentina: New book gives Pope Francis’ responses to issues he’s most often asked about

Pope Francis attended a Vatican screening of the 2022 documentary “Freedom on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom” on Feb. 24, 2023. / Vatican Media

CNA Newsroom, Feb 28, 2023 / 15:30 pm (CNA).

A new Spanish-language book whose English title is “The Shepherd: Francis’ Challenges, Reasons, and Reflections on His Pontificate,” written by Argentine journalist Sergio Rubín and his Italian colleague Francesca Ambrogetti contains Pope Francis’ answers to questions he is frequently asked.

The book reviews the almost 10 years of Francis’ pontificate based on conversations that Rubín, a journalist from the Grupo Clarín media group and Ambrogetti, a member of the ANSA agency, had with the pontiff.

The two co-authored “The Jesuit,” the first biographical book on Jorge Bergoglio, the future Pope Francis, published prior to his election to the papacy.

The new book includes answers the Holy Father has given on the situation in Argentina as well as comments that tie him to Peronism (support for the party or policies of Juan Perón, a former president of Argentina) and criticize him for alleged closeness to politicians, trade unionists, and the so-called piqueteros (picketers).

These questions, Rubín said, put the pontiff “at the center of the controversies and as a target of criticism.”

In the book, Pope Francis also addresses corruption at the Vatican, abuses committed by members of the Church, the COVID-19 pandemic, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, accusations of promoting “poorism,” his position on capitalism, and a possible visit to his homeland.

Is Pope Francis a Peronist?

In a special chapter on Argentina, Pope Francis confronts the label of “Peronist,” with which he is sometimes identified.

“I was never affiliated with the Peronist party, I was not even a party member or supporter of Peronism. Affirming that is a lie,” he says.

However, he acknowledges that the presence in the 1970s of a Peronist group at the Jesuit-run Salvador University, which backed the future pope’s position on social justice, “led to saying that I am a Peronist.”

Then, the pontiff notes that sympathizing with Peronism is not something that can be criticized in itself. “What’s wrong with that?” he asks.

Some who link Francis with Peronism point to his having met several officials and figures of that political persuasion. “I received and I receive everyone. But sometimes there are some who seek to obtain political gain, not always with good intentions,” he explains.

Capitalism, poverty, and the role of the state

Another accusation against the Holy Father that is repeated in Argentina is that he promotes “poorism” — that is, policies that are based on giving subsidies or grants to those most in need instead of seeking to eradicate poverty.

In this regard, Pope Francis comments: “Nowhere in the Bible is there a commandment to produce poverty. Yes, the poor in spirit are blessed, those who are not attached to wealth,” he clarifies.

“But it is by no means wrong to produce wealth for the good of all. I would say more: to produce it is an act of justice,” he maintains.

Francis does not condemn capitalism, nor is he against the market, but he is “in favor of what John Paul II described as the social economy of the market,” which involves three segments: “state, capital, and labor.”

He also delves into the granting of “social plans,” a policy that has been in place for decades in Argentina for the most needy families.

On this point, the Holy Father says that “financial aid from the State to the unemployed must be temporary so as not to affect the culture of work,” and he values employment as a source of dignity, because “living off charity is one thing and another is to earn your living with one’s own effort.”

At the same time, he warns about “the violations of the worker’s dignity and his rights” by certain employers, but also by those unions that get off track because their leaders “are forgetting those they represent.”

Will Francis travel to Argentina?

Asked about his long-delayed visit to his native country, Pope Francis assures that “the intention of traveling to Argentina is still there; it’s unfair to say I don’t want to go."

In this context, the Holy Father recalls that he was “close to doing it in November 2017” with the intention of also visiting Uruguay and Chile. However, the trip did not take place because there were elections in Chile.

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

Dictatorship in Nicaragua bans Stations of the Cross in the streets

The Way of the Cross in a parish of the Archdiocese of Managua, Nicaragua. / Credit: El Calvario Masaya Parish

ACI Prensa Staff, Feb 28, 2023 / 14:30 pm (CNA).

The Nicaraguan dictatorship led by Daniel Ortega has prohibited holding the Stations of the Cross in the streets the same week that the dictator accused the Church of being a “mafia.”

Local media reported Feb. 23 and 24 that the government had banned the Stations of the Cross, a traditional practice during Lent and Holy Week.

According to the Nicaraguan newspaper La Prensa, Father Winder Morales of the Diocese of Granada said that “the Stations of the Cross that we traditionally do on Fridays of Lent can only make its way around the cathedral.”

A source from the Church in Managua told La Prensa that “after the Ash Wednesday Mass, the authorities [police] arrived to inform them that there was no permission for security reasons to do the Stations of the Cross.”

The Nicaragua Actual newspaper published the transcript of an audio recording attributed to the bishop of León, René Sándigo, explaining to his priests how the Stations of the Cross should be done.

The government “has already told many that the Stations of the Cross can only be done inside or in the atrium of the church” but others have “not yet” been told that, he reportedly said. 

“Therefore, it’s preferable and better that we all do the Stations of the Cross inside the church or in the atrium, so that we maintain that communion and also because it may be that some are told later or they may forget or not comply,” added the audio shared by Nicaragua Actual.

“I think these are times when we can strongly internalize these beautiful images of the Lord on the way to Calvary and live them intensely. God bless you all and may it be a Lent that allows us to transcend,” the audio concluded.

Sándigo was the only Nicaraguan bishop to vote in the Nov. 7, 2021, elections; the rest abstained. The elections were described by various world leaders as a “farce” that allowed Ortega to continue in power for his fourth consecutive term after winning a reported 75% of the vote but with seven opposition candidates in prison.

Daniel Ortega has been president for more than 16 years, since January 2007.

Hundreds of faithful participated in the Stations of the Cross that took place around the Managua Cathedral on Friday, Feb. 24.

The Archdiocese of Managua published photos of the Stations of the Cross held in their parishes, some of which took place outside on the streets.

Silvio Báez, the auxiliary bishop of Managua living in exile in the United States, lamented this new prohibition by the Ortega dictatorship.

“The dictatorship of #Nicaragua has prohibited Stations of the Cross on the street,” the prelate criticized on Twitter.

“What they will not be able to prevent is the Crucified One revealing his victory in every act of solidarity, in every fight for truth and justice and in every effort to defend people’s dignity,” Báez stressed.

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

Protesters attack Mexico City Congress over bill that would ban sex changes for minors

Congresswoman América Rangel of Mexico City. / Credit: Official América Rangel website

ACI Prensa Staff, Feb 24, 2023 / 12:15 pm (CNA).

A group of LGBT demonstrators attacked the Mexico City Congress Feb. 22, damaging doors and windows. Some in the group also tried to attack Congresswoman América Rangel.

The group forcibly entered the premises to protest a bill that would prohibit hormonal and surgical sex change treatments for children introduced two weeks ago by Rangel, a member of the opposition National Action Party (PAN). 

Among the group’s demands is the withdrawal of the bill, which if passed provides a sentence of two to seven years in prison for those who perform hormonal and surgical sex changes on minors. The lawmaker is confident that her initiative will be successful because, she said, “we good people are in the majority.”

After the protest, Rangel posted on Twitter that “fortunately I’m okay after a group of people tried to physically assault me.”

“I thank the congressional staff for ensuring my personal safety at all times and thank you all for your messages. Violence is not and will never be the solution,” the lawmaker said.

The National Front for the Family of Mexico expressed its support for Rangel and condemned the attempted attack on her by “transsexual protesters.”

On Feb. 22, the congresswoman filed criminal complaints with the attorney general’s office “against the persons responsible for yesterday’s violent acts.” 

“We have perfectly identified three people” and the identities of other attackers are being sought, the Mexican legislator said.

What motivated the violence

In addition to related issues, the violent demonstration was primarily a reaction to a bill Rangel introduced Feb. 9 in the Mexico City Congress to amend the Law on the Rights of Girls, Boys, and Adolescents of Mexico City.

In 2016 Mexico City, formerly the Federal District (though not one of the country’s 31 states), acquired many of the responsibilities and powers of a state including its own constitution and congress.

Days before before the protest had taken place, in an Feb. 14 interview with ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner, the Mexican legislator pointed out that her bill “has generated a lot of debate” among the public and, she said, “I think it’s very good that we are discussing this issue publicly.”

“For our part, we will continue to be part of that debate, while lobbying for the law to be passed,” she said.

“In addition, we are talking with legislators from other states so that this law is introduced in as many states as possible,” she said.

In support of her initiative, Rangel stressed that “minors do not have the intellectual maturity to make a decision of that magnitude.”

“Just as children don’t have the right to drink or smoke, they shouldn’t have the right to change their sex either,” she explained.

The Mexican politician also noted that “in the world there are thousands of cases of so-called ‘detransitioners,’ people who underwent these treatments when they were minors and years later regret it when they realize the very serious consequences of a decision they made when they were children.”

In 2020, the government of Mexico City, headed by Claudia Sheinbaum, a member of the Morena party, announced eased regulations for “trans” children to legally change their sex in the Civil Registry of the Mexican capital.

Sheinbaum is considered one of the possible candidates for Morena, the party of the current president of Mexico, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, in the 2024 presidential elections.

In April 2022, the Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation, the highest judicial body in Mexico with the powers of a constitutional court, made it possible for children to be able to change their sex on their official documents.

‘The support of the majority’

The PAN congresswoman charged that “there is a great campaign by promoters of gender ideology around the world that even confuses parents and makes them make hasty decisions, taking advantage of the difficult time they are going through with their children.”

“It’s important for parents to remember that children are easily influenced and change their minds all the time,” she said.

Rangel is convinced that “these types of ideas have the support of the majority, but they have made us believe that we are extremists and anti-rights, which makes many people remain silent.”

“I think that if we really want to defend childhood, life, and the family, we must all get rid of our fear and raise our voices against gender ideology, a perverse ideology that seeks to do away with Western culture,” she said.

“Let’s defend our values and not bow down to the progressive dictatorship,” she concluded.

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.