The Vatican, a sovereign city-state and the spiritual headquarters of the Roman Catholic Church, has had a long and complex relationship with governments and countries around the world. Recently, this relationship was tested when the Vatican found itself caught in the midst of political unrest in Nicaragua.
The Vatican has had a diplomatic presence in Nicaragua since 1904, but it wasn’t until the 1980s that the relationship between the two became strained. The Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN), a left-wing political organization, came to power in Nicaragua in 1979, and the relationship between the FSLN and the Vatican became progressively more tense.
In 1984, Pope John Paul II visited Nicaragua and openly criticized the Sandinista government, accusing it of violating human rights and suppressing religious freedom. The relationship between the Vatican and Nicaragua only worsened after the FSLN declared a “state of emergency” in 1985, which led to the arrest of political opponents and the suspension of civil liberties.
The election of President Daniel Ortega in 2007 initially seemed to improve the relationship between Nicaragua and the Vatican, with the two even signing a concordat in 2016. However, in 2018, protests broke out across Nicaragua, sparked by a proposed change to the country’s social security system.
The protests quickly turned violent, with government security forces clashing with protesters and both sides accused of human rights abuses. The Catholic Church in Nicaragua quickly became involved, offering to mediate talks between the government and opposition groups.
However, relations between the Church and the government soured after Church officials came under attack from pro-government groups. The Archbishop of Managua, Leopoldo José Brenes, and the Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop Waldemar Stanislaw Sommertag, were both attacked while trying to mediate talks between the two sides.
In response, the Vatican expressed its concern over the situation in Nicaragua and called for an end to the violence. However, the situation in the country continued to deteriorate, and in September 2018, the Vatican announced that it was closing its embassy in Nicaragua.
The decision to close the embassy was seen as a response to the government’s crackdown on protesters and the Catholic Church. In a statement, the Vatican said that it was closing the embassy “due to the current political and social situation” in Nicaragua.
The closure of the embassy was a significant blow to the relationship between the Vatican and Nicaragua, and it was seen as a sign of the deepening crisis in the country. The Vatican had played an important role in mediating talks between the government and opposition groups, and its decision to withdraw from the country was a clear sign of its frustration with the government’s handling of the crisis.
The closure of the embassy was also seen as a blow to the government of President Ortega, who had depended on the support of the Catholic Church for many years. Ortega had been a member of the Sandinista government that clashed with the Vatican in the 1980s and had come to rely on the Church’s support in the years since.
The decision to close the embassy was not the first time that the Vatican had taken a stand against a government that it felt was violating human rights and religious freedom. In recent years, the Vatican has been vocal in its opposition to the governments of Venezuela and China, both of which have been accused of human rights abuses and of suppressing religious freedom.
The closure of the embassy in Nicaragua was a significant moment in the relationship between the Vatican and the country, and it highlighted the Church’s commitment to promoting human rights and religious freedom around the world. While the decision was undoubtedly a difficult one, it was seen as a necessary step in addressing the crisis in Nicaragua and in standing up for the principles of the Catholic Church.