Archdiocese of Miami Offers to Take in Priests Exiled from Nicaragua

The priests and seminarians arrived in Washington, D.C., on Feb. 9 after being exiled by Nicaraguan dictator Daniel Ortega, who accused them of treason and suspended their citizenship rights in perpetuity.

St. Mary’s Cathedral in Miami.
St. Mary’s Cathedral in Miami. (photo: Farragutful / Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0))

The shepherd of Miami, Archbishop Thomas Wenski, announced that his archdiocese will receive with open arms the priests and seminarians who were exiled by the dictatorship in Nicaragua, offering them longer-term housing.

The prelate explained to Florida Catholic Media that although they will initially be taken in by Nicaraguan families living in the United States, they are invited to then stay at the St. John Vianney College Seminary in Miami on a permanent basis.

“I’m offering them the hospitality of the seminary as well as the opportunity to get acclimated, acculturated and see what the next steps would be after that,” Archbishop Wenski told Florida Catholic Feb. 11.

The archbishop said that the priests will be able to take “intensive English classes” while finalizing their immigration paperwork.

He noted that, although he would like them all to stay in the archdiocese, he has “already heard from a few bishops who need Spanish-speaking priests who would be happy to help them out.”

The priests and seminarians arrived in Washington, D.C., on Feb. 9 after being exiled by Nicaraguan dictator Daniel Ortega, who accused them of treason and suspended their citizenship rights in perpetuity. They were part of the group of 222 political prisoners deported by the regime of Ortega and his wife, Vice President Rosario Murillo.

Upon their arrival in the United States, the priests celebrated a Mass of Thanksgiving at St. Mark the Evangelist Parish in Hyattsville, Maryland. During the Mass they asked for continued prayers for the families in Nicaragua and for the shepherd of Matagalpa, Bishop Rolando Álvarez, who was sentenced for treason to 26 years in prison by the dictatorship.

“The Lord is giving him that strength and courage to continue proclaiming the Gospel there in those circumstances,” said the celebrant, Father Reynaldo Tijerino Chávez.

Father Sadiel Eugarrios Cano, who gave the homily, said that “the more than 200 Nicaraguans who have come to this country come with great uncertainty, to seek refuge in families, in the good people who have welcomed us.”

“Unfortunately, evil has taken over some hearts that need conversion and we must pray for the salvation of souls, not for condemnation,” he said.

Father Eugarrios stressed that “we must not be afraid” but rather “bear witness to our baptism.”

The group of deportees includes the priests Oscar Benavidez Dávila, 50, pastor of Holy Spirit parish in Molokukú; Father Ramiro Reynaldo Tijerino Chávez, 50, rector of the John Paul II University; Father Sadiel Antonio Eugarrios Cano, 35, former vicar of the Matagalpa cathedral; and Father José Luis Díaz Cruz, 33, current vicar of the Matagalpa cathedral.

Also deported were Deacon Raúl Antonio Vega González, 27; seminarians Darvin Esteylin Leiva Mendoza, 19, and Melkin Antonio Centeno Sequeira, 23; and photographer Sergio José Cárdenas Flores, 32.

‘The Violent Have Already Lost’

Bishop Silvio José Báez, a Nicaraguan bishop living in exile in Miami, offered a Mass over the weekend in which he harshly criticized the Ortega dictatorship.

“Attacking to freedom, denigrating their dignity with falsehoods, raging to humiliate them, treating them cruelly, and condemning them unjustly are homicidal actions, are real crimes,” Bishop Báez said during the homily he gave Feb. 12 at St. Agatha Church in Miami.

The prelate stressed that “they are criminals who imprison just people and who deport the citizens of their own country.”

“These abominable acts are not just the whims of deranged people, irregularities in legal proceedings or failure to comply with international norms. No. Offending with rage, slandering for revenge, unjustly imprisoning, viciously torturing and condemning to exile are real crimes and those who act in this way are criminals, who will have to face justice sooner or later,” he said.

Bishop Báez pointed out that the authorities in the Nicaraguan regime “are not showing themselves to be strong” but rather are exposing “their weakness and their fear.”

“The violent have already lost, they always lose, because any victory obtained by violence is equivalent to a defeat,” he said.

“Harming people, they harm themselves; condemning the innocent, they condemn themselves; robbing the people of their liberties, they become the most unfortunate slaves,” the bishop added.

When it became known that Ortega’s government had very probably ordered Bishop Báez’s assassination, Pope Francis in 2019 ordered the former auxiliary bishop of Managua to leave the country. He has been living in exile in the United States since then.