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From one challenge to another: Nicaragua’s expelled nuncio gets new mission


Marvin Recinos | AFP

Monsignor Silvio Jose Baez speaks next to Cardinal Leopoldo Jose Brenes (C) and Papal Nuncio Stanislaw Waldemar Sommertag (L) upon arrival in Masaya, Nicaragua, on June 21, 2018. Members of the Catholic Church arrived in the city -- which this week declared itself in rebellion to president Daniel Ortega's rule -- "to avert another massacre" as it was under "disproportionate" attack from police and paramilitary forces, who, a human rights group said, were using AK47s and Dragunov sniper rifles against civilian residents.

I.Media - published on 09/06/22

Ortega's anti-Catholic government kicked out the pope's rep (as well as Mother Teresa's nuns) last March. Now he heads to the tip of West Africa for another challenge.

After being expelled by the Nicaraguan government in the midst of its ongoing conflict with the Church, Archbishop Waldemar Stanisław Sommertag will now represent the pope in Senegal, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau and Mauritania.

The Vatican announced the new assignment from Pope Francis on September 6, 2022.

This is the second nuncio’s post for the 54-year-old Polish archbishop, who spent four years in Nicaragua. He was expelled by Daniel Ortega’s government last March.

Ordained a priest in 1993, Archbishop Sommertag was appointed to the nunciature of Managua on Feb. 15, 2018, and received episcopal ordination from Pope Francis on March 19 of the same year.

As soon as he presented his credentials to the Nicaraguan head of state, he conveyed the pope’s concern for the country, which has been plagued by strong protests.

Over the years, as Nicaragua experienced an unprecedented political crisis, the Holy See’s representative tried to articulate negotiations between the ruling power and the opponents. Sommertag has repeatedly called for a democratic solution and the release of political prisoners.

But in November 2021, Ortega stripped him of his role as dean of the diplomatic corps in the country, and in March 2022 he was expelled.

The Holy See then took up the cause against “this unilateral, serious and unjustified measure,” renewing its “full confidence” in its Polish diplomat.

Once again, the prelate inherits a complex territory at the tip of West Africa. While the island state of Cape Verde, in the Atlantic Ocean, is predominantly Catholic, the other three countries, Senegal, Guinea-Bissau, and Mauritania, are predominantly Muslim.

The Holy See’s representative in the Islamic Republic of Mauritania — which has only a few thousand Catholics, mostly expatriates and migrants — has only been a full nuncio since 2017, a year that saw a bilateral rapprochement.

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