Police arrest a priest on charges of treason
As tension escalates between the Catholic Church and President Daniel Ortega, the police have detained Father Sauceda of the Parish of San Juan Pablo II in the Diocese of Matagalpa.
The official report released by authorities claims that Father Sauceda was “acting suspiciously, drunk and in the company of a young woman” whilst driving on a road that leads to the municipality of Esquipulas. This is a common implication used against priests, with the aim to disparage the Catholic Church.
Authorities also stated that Father Sauceda is “suspected of committing acts undermining the nation’s independence and integrity and will be brought before a judge to be tried for treason”.
According to Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), Father Sauceda is the third priest to be arrested in a week in Nicaragua. The Diocese of Estelí has confirmed that Father Eugenio Rodríguez and Father Leonardo Guevara Gutiérrez are also being investigated by police authorities.
President Ortega’s Sandinista regime has been shattering the Catholic Church, as a result of its outspoken criticism of his government. There’s a spreading list of Catholic clergy harassed, expelled or unjustly detained in prison.
Churches have been the target of several attacks and desecrations. Based on reports from Fide Agency, there have been 90 recorded attacks from this year. The latest occurred only a few days ago, in a chapel in the department of Masaya where the Blessed Sacrament was desecrated.
Nicaraguan lawyer Martha Patricia Molina released an an account titled ‘Nicaragua: ‘Una Iglesia perseguida?’, which revealed 529 attacks since 2018, with a record number of 161 incidents in 2022.
Nicaraguan authorities have arrested several priests, expelled missionaries, shut down Catholic radio stations and universities, and forbidden processions and pilgrimages.
According to ACN “We are witnessing a clear attempt to silence the Church in Nicaragua. In a situation of strong political and social degradation, the Church’s role as peace broker and promoter of reconciliation has resulted in repression, false accusations, arrests and unjustified prison sentences”.