TEN FOREIGN priests working in the Central American state of Nicaragua have been expelled by the government following their reported involvement in a demonstration mounted by the Archbishop of Managua, Miguel Obando Bravo.
According to Nicaraguan government sources the Archbishop called for the demonstration following the apprehension of a Nicaraguan priest, Fr Amado Bena, for alleged anti-government activities.
The sources claimed that Fr Rena had been "caught redhanded" associating with, and carrying messages for, the antigovernment, National Democratic Front, and that the Archbishop had been asked by intervene to prevent members of the clergy engaging in such activities.
The expelled priests are among those who took part in the demonstration. The Government says that they have
breached the terms of their residence permits which require them not to become involved in the internal domestic affairs of the country.
Among the expelled priests are four Spaniards, two Italians, two Costa Ricans, one Canadian and one Panamanian.
The news of the expulsions marks a further stage in the decline of Church-State relations in Nicaragua. At Easter the Catholic bishops called on the Sandinista Government to open a dialogue with the "Contras"-American_backed rebels based in Honduras.
The call was rejected out of hand by the Sandinistas, who accused the Church of being involved in a plot against the state.
Since Easter Mass services have been disrupted, and the state-controlled media has attacked Archbishop Obando Bravo for his links with the late dictator Agostino Somoza.