18 religious sisters from the Missionaries of Charity crossed on foot into Costa Rica late last week after being escorted to the border by Nicaraguan officials.
They were expelled from the country in a crackdown on the Catholic Church by Daniel Ortega, who won his fifth term as president last August in what has been widely called a “sham” election.
Their non-governmental organization was dissolved June 29th by the National Assembly on an “urgent” basis without any debate. Their trumped-up charges include breaking “Law 977” on money-laundering, financing of terrorism, and financing weapons of mass destruction.
The nuns had been working there with the poor since 1988 when Saint Mother Teresa visited the country during Ortega’s first term. They had been running a child care center, nursing home, and a women and children’s shelter.
The Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights said “countless children and elderly people have been left defenseless” in the wake of their expulsion which was motivated by “hatred of the church, its work of charity and evangelization.”
“They violated their religious rights and the right to honor and reputation by stating that they were not accredited and that they practically worked illegally in Nicaragua.”
Martha Patricia Molina Montenegro, an attorney and member of the Pro Transparency and Anticorruption Observatory, said the elderly previously in the care of the sisters “have also been expelled from the nursing home” but that they “have made sure that they remain in good hands and not as the dictatorship wanted, which is that they go back to being homeless on the street.”
“Possibly the building where the nursing home was located will be confiscated by the dictatorship, as happened with the buildings of other nonprofit organizations.”
The sisters were welcomed to the Costa Rican Diocese of Tilarán-Liberia by Bishop Manuel Eugenio Salazar Mora.
“It’s an honor for our Diocese of Tilarán-Liberia that the soles of your feet should tread on these lands. We pray for the Church in Nicaragua, for its bishops, priests, men and women religious. Sisters, welcome to these lands; our diocese has open doors to receive you. Thank you for your example, dedication, and service to the poorest of the poor. May St. Teresa of Calcutta continue to intercede for your intentions. Long live Christ the King!”
Auxiliary Bishop Silvio Jose Baez of Managua, the capital of Nicaragua, tweeted from Florida where he resides in exile after fleeing the country following death threats in 2019:
“If it is true that ‘perfect love casts out fear’ (1 Jn 4:18), it is also true that petty fear casts out love. Only sick hearts and dark minds are capable of expelling love. And to expel love is to reject God.”
Previously in March, Nicaragua also expelled the Vatican’s ambassador, a move the Holy See called “incomprehensible.”
Ortega in the past has accused Catholic clergy of being “coup mongers” and called them “devils in cassocks.”
Photo Credit: Silvio Jose Baez, Twitter, Fair Use