Pope Francis says imprisonment of Nicaraguan bishop reminds him of Hitler’s dictatorship

Pope Francis says imprisonment of Nicaraguan bishop reminds him of Hitler’s dictatorship

Pope Francis prays in St. Peter's Square on March 8, 2023. / Vatican Media

Rome Newsroom, Mar 10, 2023 / 08:00 am (CNA).

Pope Francis called Nicaragua’s Daniel Ortega “unstable” and likened Nicaragua’s Sandinista government to Nazi Germany in an interview published Friday.

Speaking about Nicaragua’s Bishop Rolando Álvarez, who was sentenced to 26 years in prison by Ortega’s dictatorship last month, Pope Francis said: “It is something out of line with reality; it is as if we were bringing back the communist dictatorship of 1917 or the Hitler dictatorship of 1935.”

“They are a type of vulgar dictatorships,” he added, also using the Argentine word “guarangas,” meaning “rude.”

Pope Francis said: “With much respect, I have no choice but to think that the person who leads [Daniel Ortega] is unstable,” according to a transcript published on March 10 by the Spanish-language news outlet Infobae.

“Here we have a bishop in prison, a very serious man, very capable. He wanted to give witness and did not accept exile,” he said, speaking of Álvarez, whose imprisonment deeply grieved the pope.

The pope’s comment echoes those made recently by the chair of the U.N.’s Human Rights Group on Nicaragua, Jan Michael Simon, who likened Nicaragua’s Sandinista government to Nazi Germany.

“The use of the justice system against political opponents, as in Nicaragua, is exactly what the Nazi regime did,” Simon said.

‘Russian empire’ and the Ukraine war

Two news outlets published interviews with Pope Francis on March 10, days before the 10th anniversary of his pontificate.

In an interview with the Swiss public broadcaster RSI, Pope Francis spoke about what he would say if he had a chance to meet again with Russian President Vladamir Putin one year after the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine.

“I would speak to him as clearly as I speak in public. He is an educated man,” the pope said.

“The second day of the war I was at the Russian embassy to the Holy See to say that I was willing to go to Moscow as long as Putin would leave me a window to negotiate. Lavrov wrote to me saying thank you but it’s not the time. Putin knows I’m available.”

“But there are imperial interests there, not only of the Russian empire, but of the empires elsewhere. It is typical of the empire to put nations in second place,” Pope Francis said.

Benedict’s funeral

When asked why the funeral for Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI was sober, Pope Francis revealed that the funeral for the pope emeritus was challenging for masters of the apostolic ceremonies.

“The masters of ceremonies ‘broke their heads’ carrying out the funeral of a non-reigning pope. It was difficult to make a distinction,” he said.

“Now I have told them to study the ceremony for the funerals of future popes, of all popes. They are studying and also simplifying things a bit, removing the things that, liturgically, are not correct.”

Possibility of Pope Francis’ retirement

As he approaches the 10th anniversary of his pontificate, Pope Francis has said that he is not currently contemplating his retirement but discussed the circumstances that could potentially lead him to resign.

He said: “A tiredness that does not make you see things clearly. A lack of clarity, of knowing how to evaluate situations. A physical problem, too, perhaps,” could lead to his retirement.

“I always ask about this and listen to advice. ‘How are things going? Do you think I should…’ I ask those who know me and even some intelligent cardinals. And they tell me the truth: carry on, it is fine. But please: give me a shout in time,” he added.

RSI has only published an abridged transcript of its interview with the pope. The full interview will be published on the evening of March 12.