The church leader was confined to his residence until February 10, when he received a 26-year and four-month prison sentence on charges of “treason.” A day prior, Álvarez declined to join 222 other political detainees, including priests, a deacon, and seminarians, in leaving the country for the United States during their deportation by the dictatorship.
The verdict stirred significant worry within Pope Francis, who dedicated a brief message to the incarcerated bishop during the Angelus two days following the sentencing.
“So, for tourism reasons, that procession was allowed, but the rest of them are being prohibited,” she said.
The Nicaraguan researcher additionally pointed out that authorities aim to avoid documenting the prohibitions, opting instead for “courtesy visits” during which they verbally communicate to the parish priests that “they are not allowed to conduct the processions.”
“It has also been forbidden to mention Bishop Rolando Álvarez in Masses and in prayers,” Molina said. She reported that lay groups, priests, and seminarians secretly pray for the bishop, “because whoever mentions him in the homily, at Mass … is immediately visited by the police” and may even be arrested.
Official Statements from the Nicaraguan Bishops
The Nicaraguan Bishops’ Conference is recognized for its active involvement in national affairs and has issued statements on various occasions, particularly concerning elections and other significant public events.
However, when their positions have clashed with the regime’s preferences, the dictatorship has responded by making accusations and launching verbal attacks.
Despite these circumstances, in November 2021, the Church reaffirmed its willingness to mediate between the opposition and the regime as a means to resolve the political crisis. Unfortunately, this offer was rejected by Ortega.
In relation to Álvarez’s predicament, the bishops released a statement on August 20, 2022, the day following his forceful removal from the diocesan chancery in Matagalpa. In the statement, they expressed deep distress over the “wound” inflicted upon the Church in Nicaragua due to these events.
The ACN Report
On June 22, the pontifical foundation Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) presented its 2023 Report on Religious Freedom, observing that the persecution of the Church in Nicaragua is “politically motivated rather than religious.”
This perspective arises because since the onset of the current crisis in 2018, “the Church has openly criticized any suppression of civil liberties and the violation of human rights within the nation.”
The ACN report on Nicaragua highlights a visible deterioration in religious freedom within the Central American country.
The report concludes with a somber and pessimistic assessment of the prospects for human rights, including religious freedom.
This narrative was initially published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner, and has been translated and adapted by CNA.
Eduardo Berdejo earned a Journalism degree from Peru’s Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos. He has been a part of the ACI Prensa team since 2001. Berdejo’s coverage includes Pope Francis’ journeys to Cuba, Mexico, Colombia, and Peru. Additionally, he possesses a diploma in Comparative Literature from the University of Piura in Peru and has successfully completed the Comprehensive Course on Style Correction at the Lima Publishing School.