The Pope asks the Nicaraguan government to allow the return of expelled nuns

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Pope Francis on Thursday called on the Nicaraguan government to allow the return to the Central American nation of nuns expelled from a charitable order founded by Mother Teresa, saying it was ” gospel revolutionaries.

The 18 nuns from the local branch of the Missionaries of Charity order were taken to the Costa Rican border in July as part of a crackdown on the Catholic Church by the government of President Daniel Ortega.

The church in the Central American country acted as a mediator during the 2018 protests against the government. Since then, the institution has had a tense relationship with Managua after demanding justice for more than 360 people who died during the unrest.

“I would at least hope that the sisters of Mother Teresa (could) return,” Pope Francis said, responding to a question about Nicaragua aboard the plane returning from a trip to Kazakhstan.

“These women are good revolutionaries, but from the gospel. They are not making war on anyone. On the contrary, we all need these women,” she said, adding that her expulsion was “inexplicable.”

The nuns, who had been working with impoverished communities in Nicaragua for more than 30 years, had their legal status revoked.

In recent months, Sandinista government authorities have arrested priests, while others have gone into exile.

The Bishop of Matagalpa, Rolando Álvarez, one of the most powerful and influential members of the Catholic Church in Nicaragua, was placed under “household protection” in mid-August in Managua.

The prelate, a strong critic of Ortega, had protected himself after the start of an investigation against him for the alleged crime of conspiracy.

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In March, the Vatican’s ambassador to Nicaragua, Archbishop Waldemar Sommertag, who had criticized Nicaragua’s move away from democracy, had to leave the country suddenly after the government withdrew its approval of him.

Francis said the Vatican was in talks with the government to improve the situation for the church, which has had extremely strained relations with the government since a harsh crackdown on protests in 2018.

Bishop Silvio Báez, also a critic of the government, went into exile in 2019.

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