Bishop Rolando Álvarez (archive photo) Bishop Rolando Álvarez (archive photo)  (AFP or licensors)

Bishops around the world condemn unjust persecution of the Church in Nicaragua

The Episcopal Council of Latin America, as well as the bishops of Chile and Spain, have condemned the violation of human rights in Nicaragua, while at the same time denouncing the imprisonment of Bishop Rolando Álvarez and the expulsion of political opponents.

By Felipe Herrera-Espaliat

Faced with the worsening social and political situation in Nicaragua, and following the expulsion from the country of more than 220 opponents of President Daniel Ortega's regime and the sentencing of Bishop Rolando Álvarez to more than 26 years in prison, several episcopates from around the world have reacted with concern for, and solidarity with, the citizens and the Catholic Church in that country.

CELAM reacts

In a Message released on Saturday, the president of the Latin American Bishops' Council (CELAM), Archbishop Miguel Cabrejos, warned against the weakening of the rights of the Catholic faithful and expressed “solidarity, closeness and prayer with and for the people of God and their pastors.”

“In faith we are comforted by the words of the Gospel: ‘Blessed are those who are persecuted because they live according to God's plan, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven’,” writes Archbishop Cabrejos, who is also Archbishop of Trujillo and president of the Peruvian Episcopal Conference. The Archbishop announced that, as part of the Central America-Mexico Regional Assembly of the continental phase of the Synod, Holy Mass will be offered in the Cathedral of San Salvador – which houses the relics of Saint Oscar Arnulfo Romero –for the intentions of the Church in Nicaragua.

Unjust, arbitrary, and disproportionate prosecution

The Bishops of Chile have also raised their voices, reacting in particular to the Nicaraguan court ruling against Bishop Rolando Álvarez. The Bishop of Matagalpa and Apostolic Administrator of Estelí was accused of “conspiracy to undermine national integrity and propagation of false news through information and communication technologies, to the detriment of the Nicaraguan state and society.”

Calling the process “unjust, arbitrary, and disproportionate,”  the bishops of Chile said, “We deplore and reject the situation experienced by Bishop Álvarez and the Church in Nicaragua, which violates human rights, the essential dignity of the person and religious freedom.” The statement issued by the Chilean Bishops’ Conference also denounced the expulsion of 222 Nicaraguan citizens critical of the government of President Daniel Ortega, who were expelled from their country and taken to the United States, after being deprived of their nationality and all their civil rights. Bishop Álvarez refused to board the flight that would have taken him into exile, choosing to remain in his homeland and, consequently, face an accelerated trial that, on Friday 10 February, led to his conviction and subsequent transfer to Modelo prison.

Spanish bishops demand freedom for political prisoners

Through their website, the Spanish bishops also issued a statement expressing their sorrow and concern for “the bishops of the Nicaraguan Episcopal Conference who are suffering persecution by the government for defending the freedom of Nicaraguans.”

The Spanish Catholic hierarchy asked “all Catholics and all people of good will to pray for the peaceful resolution of this conflict and for an active commitment to peace, which has its indisputable foundation in justice.” They also called on the civil authorities to listen to the voice of the people and to release those still imprisoned for political reasons.

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12 February 2023, 12:13