Nicaraguan Gov. Cancels Residency of Franciscan Priest

By Cinthya Torrez (Confidencial)

Damian Muratori has been in Nicaragua since 1976. He serves in the northern city of San Rafael del Norte.  

HAVANA TIMES – Without explanation, Nicaragua’s Immigration office just cancelled the permanent residency of Father Damian Muratori. The priest was allotted ninety days to remain in the country.

Father Muratori belongs to the Franciscan order. He directs El Tepeyac, a sanctuary in the northern city of San Rafael del Norte, in Jinotega department.  He’s also active in the movement for the beatification of his predecessor, Father Odorico D’Andrea.

Father Muratori told Confidencial he received notification from the DGME on April 30, confirming the cancellation of his permanent status. However, he declined to comment further, stating that his case was under review.

Originally from Italy, Father Muratori has been in Nicaragua since 1976. Since 2000, he’s been in charge of the El Tepeyac sanctuary. This center receives hundreds of devotees of Franciscan Friar Odorico D´ Andrea (1916-1990). D’Andrea, also a native of Italy, was revered for his work in this Nicaraguan town from 1953 – 1990. Father Muratori considers his predecessor a Saint and is currently very active in the cause of the D’Andrea’s elevation to Sainthood.

Friar Daman’s situation with Nicaraguan immigration is part of a wave of recent unsubstantiated residency cancellations. During the first half of February, the DGME refused to allow two Salvadoran priests to reenter the country, although all of their papers were in order. One of these was Father Santos Fabian Mejia, the priest in charge of the San Francisco de Asis parish in Juigalpa, Chontales. The other, Father Jose Lemus Aguilar, was the parish priest of the Immaculate Heart of Maria Church, part of the Matagalpa diocese.

At the beginning of 2021, the DGME issued special appointments to hundreds of foreign residents, including religious leaders from the different orders. They then limited or reduced the validity of their residency cards. At that time, Monsignor Miguel Mantica noted that many of the priests were being asked to report monthly to immigration authorities.

The decision of the Nicaraguan Immigration office to cancel the long-term residency of Friar Damian Muratori has caused widespread indignation among the faithful in San Rafael del Norte. Photo from social media.

A source from San Rafael del Norte, who asked to remain anonymous, explained that Immigration’s decision regarding Muratori has sparked “reupudiation” and “indignation” among the city’s faithful. For years these worshippers have accompanied the Friar in different activities.

On May 3rd, Father Muratori commemorated a historic mass celebrated by his predecessor, Father D’Andrea. This Mass was held in 1988, in the community of El Naranjo, outside San Rafael del Norte. It was attended by both a group of Contras and one of Sandinistas. At the time, both groups were engaged in a bitter, protracted military struggle, with only tentative steps in march for reconciliation.  Now, 33 years later, Father Muratori wants this plaza to be named a historic site, for its role in the construction of peace and a new era for Nicaragua.

“The closing lines of Father Odorico D’Andrea’s historic homily resonates as a prophetic declaration for today’s Nicaragua,” stated Father Muratoni. He then quoted: “Then, with just their good will, they will store their arms in the museums, so that they become merely reminders of a sad past.’”

Friar Damian Muratori took these words as a call from Father Odorico D’Andrea to the Nicaragua of today. A call to refrain from launching scalding words, to avoid lashing out beween brothers. A call to make each person’s good will the principal instrument for sustaining the peace that was planted here on that May 3rd.” His words appear on El Tepeyac’s Facebook page.

Church burglarized

On March 28th, Muratori denounced the theft of Church monies that were earmarked for different projects. The thieves only left behind the equivalent of US $22.75 in coins.

Father Muratori believed that the thieves entered and left the Church via the roof, since none of the doors had been forced. They left the Church security guard lying on the ground, with his hands and feet tied.

The priest asserted at the time that the National Police were investigating. He asked the population to come forward with any information they might have.

Read more from Nicaragua here on Havana Times.