Vice President Mike Pence spoke with Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin about the situation in Nicaragua, expressing support for the Church’s efforts in that country.
During the conversation, which took place by phone Aug. 10, Pence recognized that the Catholic Church in Nicaragua has been a leading force in efforts at mediation and dialogue over the past year. Pence lauded the Church for its work to protect human rights and religious freedom, and to promote good-faith negotiations to bring peace to the area.
Nicaragua has been in a state of unrest for months following widespread opposition to President Daniel Ortega. There have been series of protests against Ortega since he announced changes to the country’s social security and pension systems. These changes were abandoned after protests turned violent.
Hundreds of people have been killed as police and paramilitary forces attempt to assert control.
In the phone call, both Pence and Parolin condemned the continuing violence, and reaffirmed their support for the Nicaraguan Episcopal Conference and its work to support democracy and human rights.
Following expressions of empathy with protesters, the Church in Nicaragua has been accused by Ortega of attempting to subvert his government. In the past few months, churches around the country have been attacked, and bishops have been assaulted.
In late July, the United States pledged $1.5 million to Nicaragua to assist human rights organizations and independent media in the country.
In a speech at the recent Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom, held by the State Department in July, Vice President Pence spoke out strongly about the situation in Nicaragua and against the government’s actions.
“The government of Daniel Ortega is virtually waging war on the Catholic Church,” said Pence.
“For months, Nicaragua’s bishops have sought to broker a national dialogue following pro-democracy protests that swept through the country earlier this year. But government-backed mobs armed with machetes, and even heavy weapons, have attacked parishes and church properties, and bishops and priests have been physically assaulted by the police.”
According to a statement released by the White House, Cardinal Parolin and Vice President Pence both “condemned the violence which has claimed hundreds of lives and increasingly targeted the Church, and reaffirmed their support for the Nicaraguan Episcopal Conference and the entire faith community which has stood firm in support of human rights, democracy, and freedom.”