President Daniel Ortega and his wife have banned processions in honor of the Immaculate Conception, which traditionally take place across the country between November 28 and December 8. It is the dictatorship’s latest vexation against the Catholic Church which is seeing the noose tighten week by week.
In the parish of San-Jose de Tipitapa, located in the Archdiocese of Managua, 20 km from the capital, the news stupefied the parish priest: “On November 28, 2022, at the stroke of noon, we received a telephone call from the police forbidding us any procession, and this at the very moment when the image of the Virgin was about to go around the city.… We express our deep sadness at a prohibition that prevents us from manifesting our faith in public.”
It is a ban that affects the whole country: in the parish of San-Pedro-et-Santa-Lucia in Ciudad Dario, north of Managua, Fr. Patricio Tijerino announced to his flock that “the image of Our Lady will not come out as it has always been done, there will be no organized procession, day or night.”
Similar testimonies from priests came from Masaya, the country's fourth most populous city.
From November 28 to December 8, Nicaraguan Catholics have the immemorial habit of celebrating the Purisima and the Griteria: during these ten days, the faithful build altars to the Virgin in their homes and neighborhoods, and process. Families and friends gather to pray and sing in honor of Mary in a festive atmosphere: gifts are also exchanged at each altar.
Finally, on the night of December 7 to 8, the rite of the “Major Cry” takes place: passing in front of an altar, a man exclaims “What is the greatest joy?” and the crowd answers in chorus: “the conception of Mary!” Then, in the streets, firecrackers ring out and the sky lights up with fireworks.
Not to worry, Nicaraguan Catholics will celebrate the Virgin behind closed doors: the parishes have planned a novena of masses, sermons, songs, and processions inside the churches.
Fr. Dulio Calero, parish priest of San-José de Tipitapa, invited the faithful “to continue to celebrate Our Lady with fervor and devotion and to participate in each of the activities of these days, placing everything under her protection. and her maternal intercession, for our country and the Church.”
The ban on processions is the latest in a long series of vexations targeting the Church, accused of wanting to destabilize regime of Daniel Ortega, the former Sandinista – in reference to the Marxist revolutionary Augusto Sandino, who died in 1938 – controversially re-elected in November 2021.
For the record, last March the Ortega couple’s dictatorship decided to expel the apostolic nuncio, Msgr. Waldemar Stanislaw Sommertag. Several priests have been arrested and are being held in El Chipote prison; Msgr. Rolando Alvarez, Bishop of Matagalpa, was placed under house arrest, and the Catholic media has largely been muzzled.
In a country that has gone completely off the rails, where “civil society as a whole has been criminalized,” to use the words of Nicaraguan journalist Carlos Fernando Chamorro, director of the news site Confidencial, the Church holds her breath and waits for the probable hour of the collapse of the regime, under the blows of the economic crisis, or the disappearance of the two dictators.
There are dark days ahead, but there is no doubt that the Immaculate will intercede for her children in Nicaragua.