A 400-year-old crucifix was set ablaze when Managua Cathedral suffered the latest in a series of anti-Christian incidents in Nicaragua.
According to a statement by the archdiocese of Managua, on Friday 31 July a man entered the Chapel of the Precious Blood, in the Managua cathedral, and threw a firebomb, partially destroying a precious 17th century wooden image of the Blood of Christ before which Pope John Paul II had prayed during his visit to the country in 1996. The statement issued on Friday by the archdiocese expressly identified the attack as an act of terrorism, contradicting an earlier remark by the wife of President Ortega, who is also Vice-president, claiming that it had been an accident caused by burning candles. This was categorically denied by the archdiocese, which stated that precisely for fire safety reasons and on account of the great historical and religious significance of the crucifix no candles are permitted close to the image. Instead, witnesses had testified to the fact that this was a carefully planned and executed attack and that the attacker clearly knew exactly what he was doing with the firebomb.
Cardinal Leopoldo Brenes, Archbishop of Managua said that witnesses also saw the man circling the cathedral for 20 minutes before torching the cross.
The arsonist made his escape through a gateway whose door had been recently stolen.
Cardinal Brenes said: “In other words, he calculated everything – how to enter, where to do it, and then where to escape.”
He added: “This was a planned act, very calmly planned. So I want to say it clearly – it is a terrorist act, an act of intimidating the Church in her mission of evangelisation.”
The arson attack is merely the latest in a string of attacks against Catholic churches in Nicaragua. In the last two weeks alone there have been three such attacks on Catholic churches, with deliberate destruction and theft of sacred objects. The archdiocese described it as nothing less than an expression of hatred towards the Catholic Church and her mission of evangelization.
Aid to the Church in Need’s executive president, Dr Thomas Heine-Geldern, condemned the arson, adding “We wish to express our closeness to the Catholics of the country at this difficult time and assure them of the support of our prayers.
“This is the most recent incident in a string of anti-Christian attacks, not only against buildings, but against the Catholic faith as well.
“We hope that the person or persons responsible for this attack will quickly be brought to justice.”