WASHINGTON (CNS) -- An outspoken Nicaraguan auxiliary bishop now living in Florida offered a rosary and other prayers Dec. 20 from a Catholic church in Miami, clamoring for the prompt freedom of a fellow bishop detained by the government of Daniel Ortega.
"What the Nicaraguan dictatorship is doing against my brother bishop Rolando J. Álvarez is a crime. ... Rolando, you are not alone! We are with you, praying for you, and we demand your freedom. God is with you; He doesn't abandon his prophets," Bishop Silvio Baez, of the Archdiocese of Managua, tweeted Dec. 13 from Florida, where he has been living since 2019.
Bishop Álvarez, who spoke against the closing of Nicaraguan media critical of the government, came under siege in early August, when he was prevented from leaving a building belonging to the Diocese of Matagalpa, which he heads.
Soldiers surrounded the building for days and some laypeople and priests who were inside the building with him were subsequently apprehended and sent to prison.
The bishop was taken into home confinement later that month and recently the government charged him with conspiracy, spreading false news as well as damaging the Nicaraguan government and society. He is set to face a government trial Jan. 10, officials said.
Es un crimen lo que hace la dictadura de Nicaragua contra mi hermano obispo, Mons. Rolando J. Álvarez. Ultrajándolo se condenan a sí mismos. ¡Rolando, no estás solo! Estamos contigo, rezamos por ti y exigimos tu libertad. Contigo está Dios, quien no abandona a sus profetas. pic.twitter.com/HsD1VYsK7l
— Silvio José Báez (@silviojbaez) December 14, 2022
Bishop Baez, a Discalced Carmelite, has called for his liberation, praying the rosary, the sorrowful mysteries, via livestream just a few days before Christmas.
"It is odd to pray the sorrowful mysteries of the rosary days before Christmas but let us not forget the baby who is born in Bethlehem is also the one crucified at Calvary; the mother who covers him with the swaddling clothes in the manger is also the one whose heart is pierced by the sword of pain, in front of the cross," he said.
Similarly, "crucified Nicaragua," its people, including Bishop Álvarez, should be remembered, he said.
"We offer this holy rosary for our motherland of Nicaragua, undergoing dark and painful moments, and also for the church in Nicaragua, persecuted with great cruelty, but especially for the prompt liberation of Bishop Rolando Álvarez, who has been jailed and processed unjustly, for the political prisoners of the country who are innocent and deserve to be liberated," he said.
The rosary transmitted from St. Agatha Catholic Church in Miami, where Bishop Baez often celebrates Mass in Spanish, garnered more than 9,000 page views a day after being livestreamed.
Bishop Baez said he also is praying for "our brothers and sisters in the country who are suffering poverty, who are taking risks fleeing for exile, looking for a new future and a way to fix their lives, for the suffering of the mothers of victims, the families of those who are imprisoned."
The country is going through a lengthy Via Crucis, or Stations of the Cross, he said, and one in which "we feel impotent, tired, face great uncertainty," but prayer is a way to plead for a way out, he said.
Nicaragua began its most recent political and economic upheaval in 2018. Unrest that began over protests against social security reforms escalated into large-scale scuffles, which in some cases sent demonstrators running into Catholic churches and schools looking for cover.
The bishops in the country tried to enter into dialogue with the government to bring down the violence against civilians, including some that took place on church property, but were met with hostility.
Bishop Baez, who had been highly critical, was one of three prelates physically attacked by a pro-government mob in 2018 and left the country the following year after death threats. Though he said the pope had asked him to go to Rome, he has remained in Miami.
"Prayer is the best thing we can do as believers," he said, adding that "the rest, our father will give to us" because God believes in justice and truth.
He extended greetings to Nicaraguans away from their home country at Christmas assuring them that if their homeland is undergoing crucifixion, there is hope to be found in Christ: "Just as the Crucified (Christ) resurrected, Nicaragua also will be resurrected. Do not lose hope."
He implored them to keep praying, "keep trusting, keep denouncing, keep fighting. Do not be afraid, the Lord is with us, because our Lord is one who loves truth and justice," he said.