By Justin McLellan
VATICAN CITY — Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, who has strongly persecuted the church in the country and jailed a prominent bishop, is “unbalanced,” Pope Francis said.
In a wide-ranging interview with Argentinean media outlet Infobae, the pope compared the current Nicaraguan government to the “communist dictatorship of 1917,” referring to the Russian revolution and Hitler’s dictatorship in Germany before World War II, calling them “obscene” in Argentinean slang.
In the interview published March 10, Pope Francis spoke about Bishop Rolando Álvarez of Matagalpa, who was sentenced to 26 years in prison Feb. 10 after refusing to be sent to the United States with 222 political prisoners deported by the Nicaraguan government. Bishop Álvarez and the church throughout Nicaragua have been targeted for allegedly supporting opposition to President Ortega and his government.
With the sentencing of the bishop, “I have no choice but to think that the person in charge is unbalanced,” the pope said.
Still speaking of Latin America, the pope said that he wants to go to Argentina, but that the right moment has not presented itself.
And he said he believes regime change is possible in Venezuela, since “historical circumstances will make them change the way of dialogue they have.” The U.N. refugee agency estimates there are more than 7 million Venezuelan refugees and migrants worldwide due to high inflation and political persecution.
Pope Francis also discussed resistance in the Roman Curia, saying that he appreciates direct and productive criticisms but that resistance “on the verge of schism” is “ugly.” He cited “a well-known American bishop, who was nuncio” as an example of “poorly managed resistance.”
“We do not know if this man is Catholic or not, he is on the edge,” said the pope.
Despite a promise he made to Our Lady of Mount Carmel in 1990 to not watch television, Pope Francis said he was kept up to date on the 2022 World Cup final, in which his native Argentina beat France in penalty shootouts.
“I was in a meeting here with six Alitalia pilots and their wives. At one point I went to go find something, and when I came back one told me ‘they are winning’ ” along with the score.
Argentina was winning the match 2-0 with just over 10 minutes left before conceding two late goals to go into overtime.
“We Argentinians have this: We start things with enthusiasm, and we have a culture — I don’t know, at least I have it — of leaving things halfway,” said Pope Francis. “Be it in the positive or negative.”