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Nicaragua sentences Bishop Álvarez to 26 years in prison

biskup Rolando Alvarez z Nikaragui

STRINGER/AFP/East News

Daniel Esparza - published on 02/14/23

A day after exiling most of its political prisoners to the United States, Ortega’s regime sentences Bishop Álvarez to 26 years in prison.

After refusing to leave with the rest of the 222 political prisoners flown to the U.S. on Thursday, Bishop Rolando Álvarez was sentenced to 26 years in prison in Nicaragua. According to media reports quoted by NPR, “Álvarez stopped at the stairs leading to the airplane and said, ‘Let the others be free. I will endure their punishment.’”

Álvarez has always been openly critical of Daniel Ortega’s regime. In May 2018, he was part of a team from the Bishops’ 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 for “crimes against spirituality.”

In his initial hearing, Álvarez was accused of “crimes 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.” This weekend, a judge appeared on state television and said the priest had been declared a traitor and sentenced to 26 years in prison. He was also stripped of his Nicaraguan citizenship.

European bishops back Nicaraguan clergy

In a letter earlier this week, Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich of Luxembourg, President of the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Union (COMECE), voiced his support for the Nicaraguan bishops amid Ortega’s persecution of priests and bishops in the country.

Hollerich’s letter is addressed to Bishop Carlos Enrique Herrera Gutiérrez of Jinotega, who acts as President of the Bishops’ Conference of Nicaragua. According to Crux, the letter explains that European bishops “are following with sadness and concern the situation in Nicaragua, and the persecution to which our Church and some of its members in that country are being subjected to in recent times.”

Hollerich stresses the cases of Bishop Rolando Álvarez of Matagalpa and those of the many priests and laity also facing legal threats from Ortega’s regime.

Pope Francis spoke of the bishop after praying the midday Angelus on Sunday, saying in part:

The news from Nicaragua has saddened me a great deal, and I cannot but remember with concern Bishop Rolando Álvarez of Matagalpa, whom I care about greatly, sentenced to 26 years imprisonment, and also those who have been deported to the United States.

Tags:
NicaraguaPersecution of Christians
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