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Nicaragua: Ortega Freezes Retirement Fund for Priests

Retired priests were unable to withdraw their pensions after the dictatorship blocked an Episcopal Conference of Nicaragua bank account.

Lawyer and activist Martha Patricia Molina denounced that as part of the dictatorship’s repression against the Catholic Church, the Ortega-Murillo regime has frozen the bank account in which the Episcopal Conference of Nicaragua (CEN) administered a fund for retired priests.

“The national insurance fund for priests is an institution that was created more than 20 years ago by the CEN as a retirement fund for priests. It is not a traditional pension fund because it does not cover health care, or other Social Security concerns. It was designed as a retirement fund,” Molina explained.

The retirement fund is sustained with contributions of $150 per year from active priests, parishes, and ecclesiastical institutions, in addition to the proceeds from a collection that takes place in the different churches throughout the country every Ash Wednesday.

Molina explained that she had reports of retired priests who tried to make use of the fund and were notified that this money was blocked. The CEN has not yet officially commented on this situation. 

From this fund, a pension of $300 is allocated for priests aged 75 and over, and $150 for priests who are 65 or older. 

“This fund has operated for more than 20 years without any problems. Among the latest underhanded measures of the dictatorship against the accounts of the Catholic Church, they have disabled this fund in such a way that older priests are not able to collect their pensions. This is one of the most insidious examples of the current situation,” she added.

The Catholic Church has not released data on the number of retired priests in the country who would be directly affected by this new offensive on the part of the dictatorship.

Persistent attack

This is not the first time that the dictatorship has utilized the banks of the national financial system to act against the Catholic Church. 

On May 27, 2023, the dictatorship ordered that the bank accounts of the Catholic Church in Nicaragua be frozen gradually and without any official notification. The freezing of the dioceses of the Catholic Church’s bank accounts in the financial system has taken place throughout Nicaragua.

Subsequently, on June 14, the regime ordered the freezing of the personal bank accounts of some of the priests who are being investigated for an alleged case of “money laundering” allegedly committed by the Catholic Church in Nicaragua.

Church sources confirmed to Confidencial that this measure was not only applied to the priests under investigation, but also extended to other priests throughout the country.

An order to freeze bank accounts can occur when the transactions of an individual or legal entity are being investigated. The Ortega dictatorship has executed this as a repressive instrument against hundreds of citizens and organizations whose assets have been confiscated.

This measure has already had repercussions in the Catholic Church. The St. John Paul II National Preparatory Seminary, located in Bluefields in the Southern Caribbean of Nicaragua, had to close its doors due to the blocking of the Catholic Church’s bank accounts.

The measure directly affected 27 seminarians, from the eight dioceses of Nicaragua who are in their first year of religious education, which includes their academic, human, pastoral and vocational formation.