Church Versus State

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Nicaragua expelled nuns from the order founded by Mother Teresa this week after stripping the organization of its legal status, the latest group to be shut down by the government of authoritarian President Daniel Ortega, the BBC reported Thursday.

Authorities escorted the 18 nuns from the Missionaries of Charity to the border with neighboring Costa Rica. The nuns later crossed the border on foot.

Since 1988, the Missionaries of Charity had been helping the poor in the country and ran a number of homes, including one for abused and abandoned girls.

But last month, the Nicaraguan legislature – primarily controlled by Ortega’s Sandinista party – stripped the organization of its legal status for “not meeting its obligations” to declare the origins of its funds.

Since 2018, Ortega’s government has shut down more than 200 organizations in the country for allegedly violating strict new funding laws. Among those affected is the renowned Nicaraguan Academy of Language, as well as a medical organization that performs cleft palate surgery on children.

But the closure of the order also underscores an ongoing spat between Ortega and the Catholic Church: In 2018, the Catholic clergy sheltered students against Ortega’s regime during mass anti-government protests.

A year later, Silvio Báez, the outspoken auxiliary bishop of Managua, fled the country after receiving death threats. In March, Nicaragua expelled the Apostolic Nuncio – the Church’s equivalent to an ambassador – in a move the Vatican called an “unjustified unilateral measure”.

Ortega has accused the Catholic clergy of being “coup mongers” and “devils in cassocks.”

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