More than 150 political leaders in Nicaragua are currently in prison, at the direct order of President Daniel Ortega.
The ongoing effort to silence dissenting voices in the country has directly targeted the Catholic Church. In less than four years, the Catholic Church in Nicaragua has suffered 190 attacks and desecrations, including a fire in the Managua Cathedral.
Last July, the Missionaries of Charity were expelled from the country. The regime alleged that the missionaries were not accredited “by the Ministry for the Family to function as a nursery-center for childhood development, home for girls, and home for the elderly,” and that they did not have “an operating permit from the Ministry of Education to provide remedial education for students.”
Now, Nicaragua’s government has announced that it is investigating a Catholic bishop for “crimes against spirituality.”
In a statement released Friday evening, the national police service said it was opening a criminal investigation against Bishop Rolando Álvarez, of the Diocese of Matagalpa, claiming the prelate was inciting violence. He is accused of allegedly using media and social networks to incite acts of violence and destabilize the country.
Last Thursday, the police practically put the bishop under house arrest: officials barred Álvarez, six other priests, and six laity from leaving the curia house as they were headed to the nearby cathedral. He has been besieged there since then. These measures were taken after he voiced criticism over the government’s closing of five Catholic radio stations earlier last week.
Álvarez approached the riot police singing Roberto Carlos’ classic song “Amigo,” and then prayed in front of them.
Who is Bishop Álvarez?
Álvarez has always been openly critical of Ortega’s regime. In May 2018, he was part of a team from the Episcopal Conference that tried to mediate between Ortega and the opposition. The dialogue quickly broke down, leading to strong protests that were met with violent repression. Tensions have increased since then.
In May 2022, he announced an indefinite fast to protest the persecution of the Church by the authorities. Finally, after protesting Ortega’s closing of several Catholic radio stations, he was put under (irregular, and forceful) house arrest.
“Even in this situation we keep our joy, strength, and our inner peace. We continue to show the world that, thanks to the Holy Spirit, we are men and women with the capacity for dialogue,” said Bishop Álvarez in a video sent from his confinement.