Despite Daniel Ortega’s request, Pope Francis did not receive Nicaraguan foreign minister Denis Moncada last week in the Vatican.
The Vatican Secretary of State, Italian Archbishop Pietro Parolin, also declined Ortega’s petition for an urgent meeting with the foreign minister. Archbishop Parolin is second in importance in the Vatican, after the Pontiff, and his position is considered above that of a Foreign Relations Minister.
Neither Ortega’s petition nor the pleading of his ambassador to the Vatican, Ester Margarita Carballo Madrigal, was well-received in the Vatican, despite Ortega’s allegation that the meeting was to treat urgent matters. In his July 19th address, Ortega had accused the bishops from the Episcopal Conference of being “Coup supporters”, although on April 24th Ortega himself had originally asked them to serve as mediators and to call for a National Dialogue.
A European diplomatic source that closely follows Vatican affairs and its relations with Latin America confirmed that “neither the Pope nor his Secretary of State received Foreign Minister Moncada.”
According to this source, Moncada was received by a mid-level official who was following diplomatic instructions in responding to Moncada’s petitions. “While the foreign minister questioned the work of all the bishops in the Episcopal Conference, accusing them of partiality, and advocated for at least three of them to be removed from the mediation commission, the Papal delegate communicated to Moncada his support for the bishops.”
The Pope’s message, transmitted verbally by his representative – whose name wasn’t revealed by the Nicaraguan government – was of “total support for the bishops, encouraging them to continue as mediators in the National Dialogue,” stated the diplomatic source.
Following this meeting that was held at the end of last week, neither the Nicaraguan Foreign Ministry nor the official government website El 19 Digital published any report of the verbal message with which Pope Francis responded to Ortega’s request, nor posted any photos registering Moncada’s meeting with the intermediate Vatican official.
Government complaints against the bishops
The only thing that the official media did report with respect to this was an interview with an Italian reporter, Geraldina Colotti, on the website L’Antidiplomatico. In this interview, Moncada confirmed that he had traveled to the Vatican and stated that “the Dialogue has stalled, due in part to the actions of some sectors of the Episcopal Conference who have openly identified themselves in favor of the opposition.”
In his public address last July 19, Ortega expressed his fierce reaction to the democratization path for Nicaragua presented by the bishops in June. Ortega’s response was to accuse them of “supporting a Coup d’etat.”
“I thought they were mediators, but no, they were committed to the Coup plotters. They were part of a plan with those preparing a Coup,” Ortega said, referring to the proposal for a path to democracy that the religious leaders had presented to him during the National Dialogue.
Again, in a recent interview with blogger Max Blumenthal, Ortega – assuming a very friendly manner – complained about the bishops, alleging that they weren’t “impartial.
“There have been two or three bishops who have broken with their role as mediators. The day that the Dialogue was installed, one of them asked to speak and began by giving his full backing to the opposition. At that moment, this bishop was diminishing the authority of the Episcopal Conference. And right there, another bishop was sending tweets from his cell phone in favor of the opposition and against the government. So, at that moment there were two who were damaging the credibility of the Episcopal Conference as an instrument of mediation. And no one took them to task for this, and no one told them that it couldn’t be this way, and I would say that the credibility of the Episcopal Conference suffered some deterioration for the attitude of some bishops,” Ortega alleged
Cardinal Brenes defends the unity of the Episcopal Conference
The Cardinal and president of the Episcopal Conference, Leopoldo Brenes, explained in his homily this past Sunday that the work of the bishops as mediators and witnesses to the National Dialogue isn’t being done as individuals, but as an entire Episcopal Conference.
“We’ve accepted working in the Dialogue as an Episcopal Conference, not as individuals. When they proposed to me that we form part of the dialogue, I said that I accepted, but as a member of the Episcopal Conference. If the Conference had said, ‘no,’ I also would have said no,” Brenes declared.
On July 8, mobs and paramilitaries linked to the Ortega regime attacked the Catholic bishops, along with human rights advocates and independent journalists. The group that was attacked had traveled the 28 miles from Managua to the city of Diriamba to participate in a mediation mission of the religious figures in the face of the attacks that had been perpetrated in Diriamba the previous Sunday. Also present at that event was the Apostolic Nuncio to Nicaragua, Stanislaw Waldemar Sommertag.
The path to democratization presented to Ortega by the bishops and members of the Dialogue emphasized the need for profound political reforms in the electoral and judicial systems in order to be able to hold early elections in March of 2019.
The bishops have received the backing of the international community, including the U.S. government and the Organization of American States. The population has also expressed its confidence and support via several large marches held in Managua and other cities of Nicaragua.