COPAN, Honduras (CNS) – Nicaraguan bishops and clergy were attacked by armed groups aligned with the government July 9 as violence in the Central American country escalated and affected the Catholic Church, which has provided humanitarian assistance in its parishes and has tried to diffuse a worsening political crisis through dialogue.
Cardinal Leopoldo Brenes Solorzano of Managua and his auxiliary, Bishop Silvio Jose Baez, and Archbishop Waldemar Stanislaw Sommertag, the apostolic nuncio, were among clergy from Managua pummeled as they attempted to protect St. Sebastian Basilica in the city of Diriamba from an incursion by a pro-government mob. Bishop Baez and at least one other priest were injured. Journalists also were attacked and had cameras and other equipment stolen.
The bishops and clergy also tried to free anti-government protesters inside the church as masked individuals and mobs outside chanted “murderers” at the prelates. Pro-government media, meanwhile, accused the church of allowing weapons to be stored inside its properties.
“I was injured, punched in the stomach, they took my episcopal symbols away from me, and verbally attacked me,” Bishop Baez tweeted.