As President of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, I express my profound concern about the increasing threats to the peace, freedom, and well-being of the people of Nicaragua.
Over three years have passed since a bloody civil war resulted in the overthrow of the old regime and the beginning of a new order. With many others, we were heartened at the new possibilities for peace in the region, combined with an effective commitment to social justice for all Nicaraguans, especially the poor.
Much indeed has been accomplished since that time. But the deep and unhealed wounds of the past that still divide many within the Nicaraguan nation, the sometimes uncertain direction or conflictive policies of the new government, and the perceived hostility of other governments, including our own, have created their own problems.
In recent weeks, institutions and persons of the Church, including bishops, have been subjected to attacks of a serious, at times disgraceful, nature. The source of these attacks, or the motivation of those perpetrating them, is not always clear. But their effect is.
They have heightened tensions within the country, increasing discord, fear, and suspicion. They have generated a conflict between church and state and have besmirched the image of Nicaragua in the international community.
We have some awareness of the complexity of these unhappy events but we cannot fail to protest, in the strongest possible terms, the attempted defamation and acts of physical abuse directed at prominent clerics, the inappropriate exercise of state control over the communications media, including those of the Church, the apparent threats to the Church's role in education, and, most ominous of all, the increasing tendency of public demonstrations to result in bloody conflict.
Nicaragua is living through a most difficult moment. We are not unmindful of the serious problems created both by external aggression and internal opposition. But unless the authorities are able to resolve quickly, if not prevent altogether, the kinds of conflicts we have witnessed lately, far greater problems are inevitable.
In his recent letter to the bishops of Nicaragua, Pope John Paul II exhorted all the faithful, with the leadership of their bishops, to offer "constant and clear witness of their love and service to country, neither less nor less effective than that of others." This we believe the Church in Nicaragua has done and is struggling to do today.
We join in prayerful solidarity with our brother bishops of Nicaragua and all the faithful; I send my personal word of regard and respect to Archbishop Miguel Obando Bravo of Managua, President of the Nicaraguan Bishops Conference. We express deep sympathy with those who have suffered from the recent conflicts; and we unite with all in prayer for peace and reconciliation.