Rome (Agenzia Fides) - "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. I pray for them and for all those who are suffering in that dear nation, and I ask for your prayers. We also ask the Lord, through the intercession of the Immaculate Virgin Mary, to open the hearts of political leaders and all citizens sincerely seeking peace, which is born of truth, justice, freedom and love and is achieved through the patient exercise of dialogue. Let's pray together to Our Lady. [Ave Maria]", said Pope Francis after the Angelus on February 12.
Archbishop Miguel Cabrejos Vidarte, president of the Latin American and Caribbean Episcopal Council (CELAM), has also expressed his solidarity with the Church of Nicaragua "in these moments of trial and loss of the rights of our brothers and sisters". The message ensures fraternal communion with those who are "unjustly deprived of their freedom in Nicaragua, including Bishop Rolando Álvarez and several priests". For their intentions and for their prompt release, the opening Eucharist of the Central America-Mexico Regional Assembly of the Continental Phase of the Synod will be offered on Monday, February 13, at the Cathedral of San Salvador, where the remains of Saint Oscar Arnulfo Romero, Bishop and martyr for love of the poor and of the Church are found. The President of CELAM concluded with these words: "May the Virgin La Purísima, patroness of Nicaraguans, intercede for our brothers and sisters and keep them steadfast in hope, remembering her Son's promise: 'If you remain in my word, you will truly be my disciples and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free' (Jn 8:31-32). We are with you!"
Even the Bishops of Chile, expressing solidarity and prayers with the Nicaraguan Church, believe that this sentence is part of a "clearly unfair, arbitrary and disproportionate procedure against Bishop Álvarez, which also adds to multiple other measures applied in recent months against faithful and Catholic organizations "
"All this - the Chilean bishops point out - in the midst of various restrictions on civil and political liberties and the silencing of the dissident voices of the regime, which expressed itself yesterday in the expulsion of more than 200 Nicaraguans from their country". At the end of the statement, the Bishops of Chile underline: "We regret 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. We ask the Lord that throughout our continent we be faithful in announcing the Gospel and in serving our peoples, while we invite the entire Church in Chile to pray for the Church and the Nicaraguan people."
Monsignor Rolando Álvarez, Bishop of Matagalpa and Apostolic Administrator of Estelí, in northern Nicaragua, was sentenced on the night of February 10 to 26 years and 4 months in prison, perpetually deprived of civil rights, for refusing to leave the country together with another 222 political prisoners expelled. The bishop is accused of violating the national integrity of the State and of Nicaraguan society, of spreading false news, and of contempt for authority. Monsignor Álvarez, 56, had been under house arrest since last August. For some time now, Daniel Ortega's regime has taken repressive measures against the Church in Nicaragua, which it considers not aligned with power. The television channel of the Episcopal Conference and two other Catholic channels have been closed, as well as several Catholic radio stations; the approval (agrément) of Archbishop Waldemar Stanislaw Sommertag, Apostolic Nuncio in Managua since 2018, has been withdrawn, forcing him to leave the country; processions and pilgrimages have been prohibited; several priests have been arrested on trumped-up charges; the legal status of more than 100 NGOs has been cancelled, including the "Missionaries of Charity" association; and the nuns of Mother Teresa have had to leave the country (see Fides, 23,24,30/5/2022; 3/8/2022 ). (SL) (Agenzia Fides, 13/2/2023)
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