Bishop Rolando Alvarez of Matagalpa 

By Lisa Zengarini

August 9 2022

In a statement released on Sunday, the Nicaragua’s Catholic Bishops express their fraternal closeness to the Bishop of northern Nicaraguan Diocese of Matagalpa, who has been stuck in his residence since Thursday under the accusation of allegedly inciting acts of violence.

As he continues to be held under house arrest, the Bishops’ Conference of Nicaragua (CEN) have expressed their “fraternal” closeness, “amity and episcopal communion” with Bishop Rolando José Álvarez of Matagalpa.

The outspoken bishop has been prevented from leaving his home since August 4, when the police stopped him from going to the local Cathedral to celebrate Mass after he voiced criticism over the government’s closing of five Catholic radio stations earlier last week.

Bishop Alvarez accused of allegedly inciting violence

The police accuse Bishop Alvarez of allegedly using media and social networks to incite acts of violence and destabilise the country in the context of heightened tensions between President Daniel Ortega’s Sandinista Government and the local Church.

For his part, the head of the diocese of Matagalpa is appealing to authorities to stop this harassment, requesting that religious freedom be respected.

Church always open to collaboration with authorities

In a statement released on Sunday, the Nicaraguan Bishops say their hearts are touched by the plight of Bishop Alvarez, remarking that the Church “proclaims the Gospel of peace” and, in this light, is always open to collaboration with national and international authorities.

As the Nicaraguan Church celebrates the National Marian Congress, from 7 to 15 August, the bishops invited the faithful to pray and recite the Rosary, invoking Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception, patroness of Nicaragua.

Closeness of Archdiocese of Managua

The Archdiocese of Managua also sent a message of “closeness” to Bishop Álvarez and the Church of Matagalpa “in the face of the difficult circumstances they are experiencing” as a result of the police action, expressing hope that “frank and respectful communication” may open “paths of mutual understanding”.

At the same time, the archdiocese led by Cardinal Leopoldo Brenes, vice president of the CEN, invited the faithful to continue to pray so that “the Word may be proclaimed and the pastoral ministry may be exercised to its full extent.”

Solidarity from Latin American bishops

In the past days, several Latin American Bishops have voiced their solidarity with the Church in Nicaragua, alongside the Latin American Episcopal Council (CELAM), which on Friday called on the faithful in Latin America and the Carribean to join in prayer for the Church in Nicaragua and its authorities. 

Honduras

The president of the Episcopal Conference of Honduras, Bishop Roberto Camilleri, echoed CELAM’s position by underlining in a letter shared by the Nicaraguan bishops on Facebook that “freedom of expression is a fundamental pillar that guarantees the existence of a democracy” and stressed their “solidarity and spiritual closeness.”

El Salvador 

Salvadoran Cardinal Gregorio Rosa Chávez also expressed his personal closeness to the Church in Nicaragua during a Mass on Friday.

In his homily, the Auxiliary Bishop of San Salvador said that “martyrdom continues to be a reality today” and that that “one of the most horrendous examples in the region is the persection suffered by the Church in Nicaragua.”

Costa Rica and Bolivia

For its part, the Bishops’ Conference of Costa Rica expressed its “most sincere solidarity” and called for dialogue in Nicaragua.

The Bolivian Bishops’ Conference (CEB) has also asked not to give up the effort to “build a dialogue aimed at achieving unity and peace in Nicaragua”, pledging prayers for the Church, the people and the political authorities of the country.

Vatican News