A second Nicaraguan bishop has been arrested after voicing spiritual support for imprisoned Bishop Rolando Álvarez of Matagalpa, according to independent Nicaraguan media -- a detention illustrating the country’s unceasing persecution of the Catholic Church and complete closure of all spaces for dissent.
Bishop Isidoro Mora of Siuna, which serves the country’s remote Caribbean coast, was stopped by police and paramilitaries as he was traveling Dec. 20 to the community of La Cruz de Río Grande to celebrate the sacrament of confirmation at the local parish, according to news organization Mosaico CSI.
Two seminarians traveling with the bishop were also detained, Martha Patricia Molina, a Nicaraguan lawyer who has documented attacks on the Catholic Church, said via X, formerly known as Twitter.
The motives for Bishop Mora's arrest were not immediately clear. Mosaico CSI cited a homily given days earlier by the bishop at the Cathedral of St. Peter in Matagalpa, in which he expressed support on behalf of the Nicaraguan bishops' conference for Bishop Álvarez.
"I would like to express the greetings of the episcopal conference. We are always united in praying for this beloved Diocese of Matagalpa, praying for Monsignor Rolando, praying for the journey of each one of you. We are united in prayer, in communion, in faith, in love," Bishop Mora said at the Mass.
Bishop Álvarez has spent more than 500 days in detention after being detained in his diocesan curia during a predawn raid in August 2022. He had been protesting the closure of Catholic media outlets, but drew widespread attention for denunciation of human rights abuses and criticism of President Daniel Ortega.
He was convicted after a sham trial in February 2023 on charges of spreading false information and conspiracy and sentenced to 26 years in prison. The bishop has refused to leave the country, despite attempts by the ruling Sandinista regime to send him into exile.
At least 176 Catholic priests and religious have either been exiled from Nicaragua or refused re-entry into Nicaragua since 2018, according to Molina. Police and paramilitaries, she told OSV News, have increasingly paid "courtesy visits" to intimidate priests, whose celebrations of the Eucharist are monitored. Religious celebrations such as feast days for patron saints have also been prohibited.
The Nicaraguan bishops' conference has refrained from making public statements on Bishop Álvarez's detention and the broader repression occurring in Nicaragua.
The conference previously attempted to play a mediating role between protesters and the regime after widespread protests in 2018, calling for Ortega's ouster. The bishops, however, abandoned the talks, citing a lack of cooperation on the government side.