pope raises concerns about church in nicaragua

Speaking at his traditional New Year’s Day message, Francis highlighted the arrests and expulsion of clergy.

Pope Francis used his New Year’s Day address to highlight concern over the worsening situation of the Catholic Church in Nicaragua as a result of a protracted crackdown by the government of President Daniel Ortega, which has detained clerics, expelled missionaries, closed Catholic radio stations and limited religious celebrations.

Speaking to the faithful gathered in St. Peter’s Square for the traditional New Year’s Angelus prayer and blessing, Francis said he was “following with concern what is happening in Nicaragua, where bishops and priests have been deprived of their freedom.”

He expressed his “closeness in prayer to them, their families and the entire church in the country,” and called on all Catholics to “pray insistently” to find “a path of dialogue to overcome difficulties.”

“Let’s pray for Nicaragua today,” Francis said.

Vatican News reported on Monday that at least 14 priests, two seminarians and a bishop had been arrested in recent days in Nicaragua, and that the country’s top church leader, Cardinal Leopoldo Brenes, had expressed his closeness “to the families and communities who are without their priests at this time.”

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