The president of the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Union (COMECE), Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich, has demanded “the immediate release” of the bishop of Matagalpa, Nicaragua, Rolando Álvarez.
Álvarez has been under house arrest since Aug. 19, 2022, and is due to go on trial for “conspiracy to undermine state security and sovereignty” and for “spreading fake news.”
In a letter addressed to the president of the Nicaraguan Bishops’ Conference, Bishop Carlos Enrique Herrera Gutiérrez of the Diocese of Jinotega, Hollerich shared the “sadness and concern” with which the situation in Nicaragua is being followed.
The cardinal referred to “the persecution to which our Church and some of its members have been subjected in that country in recent times” and in particular the situation of Álvarez.
The letter also explicitly mentioned priests Ramón Tijerino, José Luis Díaz and Sadiel Eugarrios; Deacon Raúl Vega; seminarians Darvin Leiva and Melkin Centeno; and lay cameraman Sergio Cárdenas, “victims, all of them of false accusations,” who were recently fined and sentenced to 10 years in prison for the same charges that Álvarez faces.
The cardinal denounced the regime’s shutdown of Catholic radio stations, “police obstructing access to churches and other serious acts that disturb religious freedom and just social order.”
According to Hollerich, these are examples of the worsening situation for Catholics that began a few years ago in the country.
The president of COMECE described as “admirable” the testimonies of commitment to the faith of the Church in Nicaragua.
“Your fidelity to the message of Our Lord Jesus Christ and your dedication to the good of your neighbor is a living example and model to follow in so many other situations of persecution that, unfortunately, are multiplying in various parts of the world,” Hollerich noted.
“We join ours to the voice that cries out because of the injustice to which our brothers in Nicaragua are being subjected and we demand their immediate release,” the cardinal said.
The persecution of the Church in Nicaragua
According to lawyer and researcher Martha Patricia Molina, “2022 was the most disastrous year for the Nicaraguan Catholic Church,” the target of “140 attacks from the Sandinista dictatorship.”
In a Dec. 28, 2022, statement to ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner, Molina noted that since 2018 the Daniel Ortega regime has intensified attacks against the Catholic Church.