Fr. Jenkins condemns Nicaragua’s attempts to silence Catholic Church in op-ed
Observer Staff Report | Friday, September 1, 2023
Editor’s note: This article was updated at 11:13 a.m. Sunday.
University President Fr. John Jenkins called on the international community to treat Nicaragua’s current government as an “international pariah” for its attempts to extinguish Catholicism, freedom of worship and freedom of speech, in an op-ed published by the Washington Post on Thursday.
Jenkins wrote the column in the wake of the government’s seizure of the Jesuit Central American University on Aug. 16. The seizure was led by President Daniel Ortega.
The takeover was just the latest incident in a “five-year campaign to silence the Catholic Church,” Jenkins wrote.
“The actions of the Ortega government are an outrage against both religious freedom, specifically in this case the freedom of Catholics, and academic freedom. As the president of one of the world’s most prominent Catholic universities, I felt compelled to condemn these actions publicly,” Jenkins said in an email from University spokesperson Sue Ryan.
The campaign to silence the Church consists of a variety of measures taken by Ortega’s government, Jenkins wrote, including the prohibition of over 1,000 Catholic processions during Lent and Easter, the seizure of two other Catholic universities and the closure of over 700 nonprofits and nongovernmental agencies, including the Catholic charity Caritas and the Red Cross.
The op-ed cited figures from the State Department showing the government has killed at least 325 people, imprisoned hundreds, injured thousands and exiled more than 100,000. The U.S. has imposed economic sanctions on the regime and declared 500 Nicaraguan officials “persona non grata.”
Jenkins quoted Pope Francis, who he said “normally refrains from caustic characterizations,” calling Ortega “mentally unbalanced.”
The Nicaraguan regime warrants harsher condemnation, Jenkins wrote.
“Ortega’s attempt to extinguish Catholicism in Nicaragua merits world condemnation on a much larger, and louder, scale. As the president of a Catholic university, I am especially eager to rally university leaders in opposition to this persecution,” he wrote. “But leaders from all walks of life should be condemning Ortega in the harshest terms. His regime should be isolated as an international pariah for trying to ‘disappear’ Catholicism, freedom of worship and free speech.”