The Nicaraguan government has “declared a war against the Catholic Church”, Bianca Jagger has said.
The human rights defender and former actress said that the regime of Daniel Ortega and his wife Rosario Murillo “is engaged in a violent persecution of the Catholic Church”, and called on Pope Francis to support Nicaragua’s embattled bishops, in an interview with Inés San Martin of the Crux news agency on Tuesday.
“The reason why the regime is focusing on people such as [Bishop Silvio] Báez or Bishop Rolando Alvarez,” she said, “is the fact that they are highly respected, highly eloquent and courageous individuals, who have the courage to denounce what the government is doing and who stand with the people of Nicaragua concerned over the human rights violations, and who are men of the people.”
She praised Bishop Alvarez in particular as “a consistent and great preacher in the country”.
She said that he and Bishop Báez were the most respected and articulate leaders in Nicaragua. After years of government suppression of political opposition and independent journalism, “the great leaders of the country are members of the Catholic Church: the bishops, the priests, the religious sisters and laity”.
Ms Jagger, who was born in Managua in Nicaragua, holds dual British and Nicaraguan citizenship and now lives in London. She chairs the Bianca Jagger Human Rights Foundation, and has been a prominent campaigner for human rights since the late 1970s.
Comparing the Ortega regime to the dictatorship in Cuba, Ms Jagger urged the Pope to defend the Church in Nicaragua. She said she was “deeply saddened and concerned” by his silence on the subject.
The Nicaraguan government has pursued an aggressive campaign against Catholic institutions in recent years, including closing charities and expelling the Missionaries of Charity from the country in July. In June, Bishop Álvarez returned to his diocese of Matagalpa after release from house arrest, while the Holy See moved Bishop Báez to Rome in 2019 over concerns for his life – a decision he said “made my heart cry”.
Ms Jagger urged the Pope not to ask the same of Bishop Álvarez.
“Getting rid of all the bishops and priests who stand up, who have the courage to stand up, is not the answer,” she said. “The answer is to intercede and speak against the man who has declared a war against the Catholic Church.”