A special vigil Mass in the Bronx was offered as broadcast and newspaper reports continued to come in daily about the deadly social and political turmoil in the Central American country of Nicaragua. At the start of the liturgy, there was a moment of silence as the church’s funeral bells tolled for the dead.
The faithful, including many who are natives of Nicaragua, joined together and prayed for peace—and for the dead, the injured and the bereaved. About 350 people attanded the Mass April 28 at St. Anselm and St. Roch parish in the Mott Haven area of the Bronx.
“We invited the Nicaraguan community, and they came from all over New York – and some came from Connecticut and some from New Jersey,” the parish’s pastor, Father Enrique Salvo, said May 4 in a phone interview with CNY. “In the homily, first I spoke about what was occurring, a summary of what was happening during those last two weeks in April. And I spoke about John Paul II—that he visited Nicaragua twice as pope.”
Father Salvo, 45, who was ordained by Cardinal Dolan in 2010, was born and raised in Nicaragua. He said his loved ones there were safe.
“Pope John Paul II came from a country that had suffered a lot,” said the pastor about the turbulent experience that the pontiff, who is now a saint, went through during his early adulthood in his native Poland.
“But he always said that in the end, love will conquer. I told the people to remember those words, those words of John Paul II—that love will conquer.”
Father Salvo said he also spoke to the faithful about suffering, and that the Lord sometimes uses suffering as a wake-up call. When we suffer, he said, it sometimes helps us realize how important it is to try to get closer to the Lord. The pastor reminded the people about the significance of asking Blessed Mother Mary to intercede for them—and to pray for peace. “Mary always tells us to pray for peace,” Father Salvo said. “When we experience suffering or unrest, we are reminded of this message, that we need to pray for peace...And I talked about why God allows suffering for us to get closer to Him, and become a light in the darkness.
“The Mass was for peace in Nicaragua, but it was also for the souls that lost their lives, and some people came in mourning because of that,” Father Salvo said. “And we had a Nicaraguan choir, with the lead singer being a man named Armando Rico; he is from Nicaragua, he lives in the New York area, he sang many Nicaraguan religious songs during the Mass.”
The turmoil began with protests stemming from the government’s mid-April announcement of a controversial plan to overhaul the nation’s social security system. As of May 4, the number of people who died in five days of student-led protest against President Daniel Ortega’s government climbed to at least 45, according to a report in The New York Times.
Father Salvo noted that the Catholic bishops in Nicaragua have been playing a key role in seeking ways to restore peace, through mediation with government officials, student protesters and business leaders.