Missionaries of Charity of Mother Teresa  (AFP or licensors)

By Lisa Zengarini

July 4 2022

According to the Nicaraguan authorities the Missionarie of Mother Teresa of Calcutta operating in the Central American country have failed to comply with their obligations.The decision comes amidst ongoing tensions between the Sandinista government and the Catholic Church.

In what seems to be a new crackdown against the Catholic Church in Nicaragua, the Sandinista Government led by President Daniel Ortega has announced the closure of an Association run by the Missionaries of Charity (MC), alongside other 100 NGOs, including a number of Catholic organizations operating in the country.

The official reason of the provision

The measure was ordered by the Nicaraguan Ministry of the Interior and is expected to be approved in the coming days by the National Assembly, where Ortega’s Sandinista National Liberation Front party (SNLF) holds an overwhelming majority.

According to the Nicaraguan authorities, the Association of the MC has “failed to comply with its law obligations”,  and specifically with “Law 977” on money-laundering financing of terrorism, and financing of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

Moreoever, says the Ministry of the Interior, the Missionaries  are not accredited “by the Ministry for the Family to function as a nursery-center for childhood development, home for girls, and home for the elderly,” nor “do they have an operating permit from the Ministry of Education to provide remedial education for students” and their “financial statements reported to the Ministry of the Interior don’t agree” with other documents presented for review.

Other Catholic NGOs to be closed

The list of Catholic organizations the Government has ordered to close also include the Spirituality Foundation for Children of Nicaragua, the Catholic Foundation for Human Development Assistance for Nicaraguans, the My Childhood Mothers Foundation, and the Diriomito Children’s Care Home Association.

Working in Nicaragua since 1988

The Missionaries of Charity have been operating in Nicaragua since 1988, following the visit St. Mother Teresa made to the Central American country  during the first term of Daniel Ortega.

The nuns  run the Immaculate Heart of Mary Home in the city of Granada, where they take in abandoned adolescents or victims of abuse. In the Nicaraguan capital Managua they run a nursing home, which provides the elderly with food, clothing, and other care. The MC  also provide remedial education for minors at risk and run a nursery for poor children.

Ongoing tensions between Government and Church

The decision on the closure  comes in the context of heightened tensions between the Catholic Church and Ortega’s government who has been governing the Central American country for 15 years. 

Relations have been tensed since 2018 when Nicaraguan authorities  clamped down on protests  against  a series of controversial reforms to the social security system. Despite attempts to mediate in the crisis, bishops were ultimately banned from the dialogue and relations further worsened  after the controversial 2021 elections which confirmed President Ortega, amid allegations of fraud and the political persecution of rival presidential candidate.

In that same year  Ortega and his wife, who is now vice-president,  called the bishops “coup perpetrators,” “foreign agents,” and accused them of preaching a false Christianity. 

Early in March this year the government declared the Apostolic Nuncio to Nicaragua, Polish Archbishop Waldemar Stanislaw Sommertag, “persona non grata” and expelled him. The Holy See expressed surprise and regret at the notification, sayng the measure is “incomprehensible because in the course of his mission Archbishop Sommertag worked with profound dedication for the good of the Church and the Nicaraguan people always seeking to foster good relations between the Apostolic See and the authorities of Nicaragua.”

The Church target  of nearly 200 attacks in four years

Since the outbreak of the crisis in 2018, the Church has been the target of nearly 200 attacks and desecrations, as well as harassment and intimidations of bishops and priests. In 2019, Managua Auxiliary Bishop Silvio José Báez was forced to leave the Diocese of Managua at Pope Francis’s request after receiving several death threats.

In a tweet written in Florida, where he presently lives, Bishop Báez wrote that he was saddened by the news of the closure of the Association of the MC , saying  “nothing justifies depriving the poor of charitable care”. – Vatican News