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Pope transfers bishop threatened for criticizing president

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By Agence France-Presse

A bishop who is an outspoken critic of Nicaragua’s government and has received death threats for helping protesters is being transferred to Rome, the Catholic Church said Wednesday.

Nicaragua has been gripped by a year of political crisis since months of anti-government street protests erupted last April, leaving more than 325 people dead and hundreds in jail.

Silvio Baez, the auxiliary bishop of Managua who repeatedly condemned the crackdown on protests by leftist President Daniel Ortega’s government, said he is saddened by the transfer but accepts it with “loving obedience.” It was ordered by Pope Francis.

“I don’t want to leave Nicaragua. I want to be clear that my heart has always been here in my land, among my people,” said Baez, who has been a bishop for 34 years and the auxiliary bishop of the capital since 2009.

He added that he can leave “with a clear conscience of having fulfilled the mission” entrusted to him.

Baez said that the US Embassy contacted him in July to warn him they were “certain there was a plan” to kill him.

The 60-year-old bishop was assaulted the same month along with other Catholic leaders when paramilitaries and government supporters broke into the Basilica of San Sebastian in Dirimaba, in the southwest of Nicaragua.

He also added there were “continually drones around” his apartment and he had received “countless” death threats by telephone, forcing him to change his phone number four times in one year.

Baez told Pope Francis that Nicaragua is a “kidnapped” country where “the powers that be are dominated by lies, injustice, repression and ambition.”

For his part, Ortega has accused Catholic bishops of sparking a “coup” by sheltering wounded protesters in churches.

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