As relations between the Nicaraguan Church and the Sandinista regime become increasingly strained, another priest has been reportedly arrested by the police. Fr Oscar Danilo Benavidez Tinoco, from the Diocese of Siuna, is been held in a detention centre in Managua, though the reason for his arrest remains unknown.

According to a statement released on August 15, Fr Oscar Danilo Benavidez Tinoco, pastor of Holy Spirit Parish, was apprehended by the police in the local municipality of Mulukuku, in Northern Nicaragua, after officiating evening Mass.

The diocese learnt later that he was subsequently transferred to a detention and alleged torture centre in the capital Managua, known as “El Chipote”.

The reason of his arrest is unknown and the Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights (Cenidh) affirmed that he is arbitrarily detained. In its statement the Diocese of Siuna invited the Catholic faithful to join in prayer for Fr. Benavidez.

The diocese said his “only mission is and has been to announce the Good News of Jesus Christ, who is the Word, Life and Salvation for all.”

Fr. Benavidez is the third priest arrested so far this year in Nicaragua, and the ninth cleric in police custody. These include Bishop Rolando Álvarez of Matagalpa and five other priests who have been under house arrest since August 4 on grounds of using media and social networks to carry out acts of violence and to destabilise the country.

Meanwhile, last week the Nicaraguan police issued another law enforcement measure banning a Marian procession scheduled in Managua for August 13 on the occasion of the Marian Congress held on August 7-15 and at the the conclusion of the national Our Lady of Fatima pilgrimage.

Since the outbreak of the crisis, the Church has been the target of nearly 200 attacks and desecrations, as well as harassment and intimidations of clerics, with bishops being branded as terroriststs. 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.

Early in July, the Government expelled the Missionaries of Charity (MC), after expelling in March the Apostolic Nuncio to Nicaragua, Polish Archbishop Waldemar Stanislaw Sommertag.