ROME – Two days after an explosive was thrown into the cathedral of the Nicaraguan capital of Managua, destroying an ancient crucifix, Pope Francis has said he laments the loss of priceless spiritual treasures and is praying for the country.

Speaking to pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square during his Sunday Angelus address, Pope Francis said his thoughts went “to the people of Nicaragua, who are suffering because of the attack on the cathedral of Managua, which was severely damaged, almost destroyed,” including “highly venerated images of Christ, which for centuries have sustained the life of the faithful.”

“Dear Nicaraguan brothers, I am close to you and I am praying for you,” he said.

Francis’s comments came after a man threw a Molotov cocktail inside the cathedral of Managua Friday, targeting a nearly 400-year-old crucifix referred to as, “the Blood of Christ.”

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According to reports, the man had spent about 20 minutes inside the cathedral before shouting, “I come to the Blood of Christ,” and throwing the cocktail inside the chapel housing the crucifix.

The incident is the latest in a string of attacks on churches in recent weeks amid deep-seeded tensions between Nicaragua’s bishops and President Daniel Ortega and his wife Rosario Murillo, who serves as the country’s vice president.

Uprisings against the government in Nicaragua began in 2018, and in the subsequent years of unrest, the country’s Catholic bishops, churches and charitable offices have been continual targets.

In a statement following Friday’s incident, Cardinal Leopoldo Brenes, who oversees the Archdiocese of Managua, called the attack an “act of sacrilege and profanation” meant to “intimidate the Church from its evangelizing mission.”

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