BISHOPS' conferences around the world have vigorously condemned the action of the Nicaraguan Government in expelling ten foreign priests on July 9. The priests were expelled by the Sandinista Government following a march led by Archbishop Miguel Obando Bravo of Managua in support of a Nicaraguan priest accused of aiding the "contras" American-backed rebels.
Bishop James Malone of Youngstown, the President of the United States Bishops' Conference, has described the Nicaraguan Government's action as "unjustifiable and damaging to the cause of peace". His views were echoed by Archbishop Roman Arrieta Villabos of Costa Rica, the President of the Secretariat of Central American Bishops. He called on the Sandinistas to reconsider "this drastic and pointless measure".
CELAM, the Council of Latin American Bishops, and representatives of the West German, the Panamanian, the Colombian and the Spanish Bishops' Conferences, as well as Archbishops Rivera y Damas of San Salvador and Arne of Sao Paolo, have condemned the expulsions and have called for a renewed dialogue between the Government and the Church.
Fr Benito Pititto, an Italian, was one of the ten expelled. He has told of how soldiers armed with submachine guns forced him into a car before driving him to Managua airport. When he returned from the controversial march with Archbishop Obando Bravo the soldiers were waiting for him. He was informed that he had "only five minutes to get my clothes ready, and always with their submachine guns pointed, they made me get into a car", and drove him to the airport.