ROSARIO, Argentina – Nicaragua’s bishops’ conference on Sunday marked the second anniversary of the attack against the image of the Blood of Christ, a historic crucifix that was burned after an unknown person threw an incendiary device into the Cathedral of Managua.

In a Facebook post titled “The image of the burnt Blood of Christ continues to accompany us,” the bishops’ conference’s statement read, “July 31, 2020 was a day full of pain for the faithful in Nicaragua.” 

“On that day, in the Cathedral of Managua, there was an arson attack and as a consequence, a totally disfigured and burned image of the Blood of Christ,” the statement said.

A person, whose identity is still not known, entered the chapel of the Blood of Christ in the Cathedral of Managua on the last day of July in 2020, and threw an incendiary bomb that severely damaged the enclosure and the 382-year-old crucifix.

The Archbishop of Managua, Cardinal Leopoldo Brenes, called it an “act of terrorism.” 

In August of the same year, the archdiocese launched a campaign to raise funds to restore the chapel and the crucifix.

In his homily, Brenes commemorated the anniversary of the attack, saying that “we remember this event that marked our lives, the commemoration of the attack on our beautiful and consecrated image of the Blood of Christ.”

“Someone asked me what I see in the face of the Blood of Christ. I see compassion, forgiveness. I see Christ Jesus nailed to the cross, dying for us, forgiving us,” the cardinal said.

Alluding to the persecution against the Catholic Church in Nicaragua, Brenes said that “in this face of Christ, in that look, there is no hatred, there is no rancor, but it is a look of mercy; that burnt body of the image of the Blood of Christ there nailed to the cross, not destroyed, but nailed to the cross, reminds us that our salvation is nailed there and above all the great good of love and mercy.”

Brenes also said that “our devotion, our love for the Blood of Christ present in that beautiful image continues with all fervor and continues to strengthen and encourage our faith as the great value, and a great wealth that we have.”

In addition, he asked the Catholic people to pray to the Blood of Christ for “strength, to be witnesses of his love,” and that those who tried with the attack “to break and weaken our faith,” be saved by the Blood of Christ.

Father Said Ruiz, vicar general of the Cathedral of Managua, said Sunday was a day of reparation and penance.

“If we have something to celebrate it is that Christ can always overcome evil,” he said, according to Articulo 66, a local newspaper. “Christ conquers, love conquers hatred; forgiveness conquers violence. Let us celebrate that in Christ is our firm hope.”

What happened in 2020

Alhough the government of President Daniel Ortega and his wife, Vice President Rosario Murillo, claims the fire was an “accident” involving votive candles, the local church has insisted that there were no votive candles next to the image.

Furthermore, faithful who were praying when the incident took place confirm that they witnessed an assailant throwing an incendiary device at the image.

An investigation in August 2020 by the Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights determined that the most probable cause was arson.

The non-governmental organization indicated that the fire caused by a candelabra and alcohol would have reached 36.1 degrees Celsius, a temperature insufficient to melt the metal structure and glass protecting the image.

When the attack occurred, Brenes released a statement calling the assault an “act of sacrilege and profanation.”

After speaking with witnesses to the event, Brenes told local media the suspect spent 20 minutes within the church and knew the best place to make his escape.

“I want to say this clearly: It was a terrorist attack, an act to try to shy the church from its evangelizing mission,” Brenes said, adding that it had been “calmly premeditated” and “planned.”

Since a civil uprising against the government of Ortega in April 2018, there have been several attacks against Catholic bishops, churches and charitable offices. Several bishops and priests have been critical of the government, and they have opened church properties to protesters seeking refuge during the worst of the confrontations with the police and the military.

Follow Inés San Martín on Twitter: @inesanma