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A pro-government mob shoved, punched and scratched at Cardinal Leopoldo Brenes and other Catholic leaders as they tried to enter the Basilica San Sebastian.The church has tried to play a mediating role between Ortega's Sandinista government and protesters who have increasingly demanded his ouster amid demonstrations and clashes in which about 450 people – most of them protesters – have been slain.Instead it finds itself increasingly targeted by Ortega and his backers, reviving a hostility between the Sandinista base and the church establishment that burned hot during the 1980s but seemed to have been overcome in recent years, when the former guerrilla commander had formed a sort of alliance with once-critical bishops.Despite the scuffle at the door, Brenes' delegation, which included the Vatican's top diplomat in Nicaragua, was eventually able to evacuate people from the church.This week Brenes and his bishops met and agreed to continue pursuing dialogue, the only option he sees for stopping the violence.In 1979, after transferring to a parish in Jinotepe, armed Sandinista fighters took over his church.For nearly 15 hours overnight on July 13-14, armed government backers fired on the church while 155 student protesters who had been dislodged from a nearby university lay under the pews.Brenes made sure they arrived safely at the city's cathedral.
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