by David Agren
GUADALAJARA, Mexico (CNS) — Catholics in Nicaragua are calling for the release of two priests detained over the past two months as a campaign of arbitrary arrests and church repression continues in the Central American country.
Msgr. José Leonardo Urbina, pastor of the Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish in Boaca, was arrested July 13, according to media reports and the Diocese of Granada. He was accused of abusing a minor, but has maintained his innocence.
Parishioners protested outside their church, demanding Msgr. Urbina’s release, according to videos posted to social media.
Another priest in the Diocese of Granada, Father Manuel Salvador García Rodríguez has been sentenced for two supposed offenses. Father García was sentenced to two years and eight months for supposedly roughing up a woman named Martha Candelaria Rivas.
Rivas, however, said the priest did not act improperly. Rivas and her daughter also disagreed with the version of events put forward by prosecutors, according to Nicaraguan media outlet Despacho 505.
Father García also was sentenced to two years in prison for supposedly threatening five people with a weapon.
The Diocese of Granada broke its silence on the matter with a statement from its clergy July 14.
“We thank God for your prayers, affection and solidarity in these difficult times. Your compassion unites us in the suffering caused by the imprisonment of Father Manuel Salvador García and Monsignor Leonardo Urbina, and with them, we all place ourselves in the hands of the Lord,” the statement said.
The arrests continue a pattern of repression from the country’s increasingly tyrannical leader, President Daniel Ortega, whose regime has portrayed the Catholic Church as an enemy. Catholic leaders have been cautious in the comments as the repression is ramped up and the regime targets church charitable and educational initiatives.
The Ortega regime ordered the Missionaries of Charity to leave the country in late June, alleging the order founded by St. Teresa of Kolkata, known popularly as Mother Teresa, “failed to comply with its obligations.”
The sisters officially left Nicaragua July 6, crossing the border into neighboring Costa Rica.