A mob of backers of Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega stormed a parish church on Thursday, interrupting Mass and striking members of the faithful, amidst mounting tensions over politically motivated arrests.
At San Juan Bautista church in Masaya, parishioners set up makeshift barricades to keep out the Sandinistas, but eventually the Ortega supporters forced their way into the church, according to the pastor of the church, Father Harvin Padilla.
The incursion took place while Mass was being celebrated as part of a day of prayer for Nicaragua called for by the Archdiocese of Managua. The Mass was to be followed by a pilgrimage in support of a group of mothers of political prisoners. The mothers are holding a hunger strike in the Managua cathedral, demanding the release of their children.
The Ortega administration has reportedly demanded that the Catholic Church remove at least four local priests critical of the regime, including Father Padilla of San Juan Bautista and Father Edwin Román from the nearby parish of San Miguel Arcángel.
As Breitbart News reported earlier this week, a similar throng of pro-Ortega activists stormed the cathedral of Managua on Monday afternoon, repeatedly striking the cathedral vicar and a Catholic nun who protested their aggression.
The pro-Sandinista mob was trying to interrupt a hunger strike carried out by seven mothers of political prisoners being held by the Ortega regime.
The Archdiocese of Managua posted videos of the incident, as well as an official statement informing “all the people of God” of the assault.
“This afternoon violent government-sponsored groups entered and took control of the Metropolitan Cathedral of Managua,” the statement read. “Confronted by Father Rodolfo López and Sister Arelys Guzmán, these people responded with violence by beating the priest and the sister, who are all right but had to leave the church to seek shelter.”
“Also, tonight members of this same group broke the locks of the bell tower and other padlocks of the church, desecrating our Metropolitan Cathedral,” it continued. “We condemn these acts of desecration, harassment, and intimidation that are not contributing to the peace and stability of the country.”
The archdiocese also demanded that President Ortega and his wife, Vice-President Rosario Murillo, take “immediate action” to restore respect to Catholic churches, as well as calling off the national police “who raid and intimidate the cathedral and our parishes.”
Although anti-government protests began in April 2018 over attempts by Ortega to cut welfare benefits, they have escalated into a broader protest movement against his rule, which has created a rift between the Catholic Church and the government.