Vatican calls for arson investigation at Nicaragua cathedral

Vatican calls for arson investigation at Nicaragua cathedral

A priest and nun pray in the Blood of Christ Chapel at the Metropolitan Cathedral in Managua, Nicaragua, July 31, 2020, after the chapel was destroyed in an arson attack. (Credit: Oswaldo Rivas/Reuters via CNS.)

An arson attack on Managua’s cathedral has drawn the attention of Pope Francis and the Vatican after Nicaragua’s vice president initially dismissed it as an accidental fire.

MANAGUA, Nicaragua — An arson attack on Managua’s cathedral has drawn the attention of Pope Francis and the Vatican after Nicaragua’s vice president initially dismissed it as an accidental fire.

The Vatican’s top diplomatic envoy in Nicaragua said Monday that he had requested the Nicaraguan government ensure a “serious, careful and transparent investigation” into the attack on the capital’s cathedral.

“We feel deep sadness and astonishment,” Archbishop Waldemar Stanislaw Sommertag, the apostolic nuncio, said of Friday’s attack that badly burned a chapel at Managua’s Metropolitan Cathedral, including a sculpture of Jesus Christ.

On Sunday, Pope Francis prayed for Nicaragua. “I am thinking about the people of Nicaragua who are suffering due to the attack on the Cathedral of Managua.”

Shortly after the incident Friday, Nicaragua Vice President Rosario Murillo said that a fire had occurred because “our people are very devoted” and there were a lot of candles and a curtain caught fire.

However, the archdiocese said an unidentified person had tossed a “bomb” inside the chapel.

Archbishop of Managua Cardinal Leopoldo Brenes, visiting the site Friday, said “these are acts of terrorism, a powerful bomb, the image was charred.”

Brenes directly refuted Murillo’s suggestion of an accidental fire. “Our chapel doesn’t have curtains and there are no candles,” he said.

Sommertag has played a role in trying to mediate the ongoing conflict between President Daniel Ortega and the opposition since protests broke out in April 2018. There have been a number of attacks on churches and clergy since that time.

“These are criminal acts motivated by hate and division sadly deeply seated in a great part of Nicaraguan society,” Sommertag said.

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