MANY CLERGY IN NICARAGUA HAVE SUFFERED FROM THEIR OPPOSITION TO THE GOVERNMENT AND ITS POLICIES. In March, President Daniel Ortega expelled the Holy See ambassador.
A Nicaraguan bishop went on an indefinite hunger strike May 19 to protest police harassment. This is just the latest in a series of cases of persecution of the Church in this Latin American country by the regime.
In a video sent to Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), Archbishop Rolando Álvarez of the Diocese of Matagalpa, said he was followed by police all day Thursday, including the evening, when he went dinner at his niece’s house. .
The fact that this harassment now also affects members of his family is, he said, what led him to finally decide to take a stand and announce his hunger strike, subsisting only on food. water and saline solution. “At one point I asked the police why they were there, and they told me it was for my own safety. But we know that in this country insecurity comes precisely from the police, it was they who made me feel in danger,” said Bishop Álvarez, who is also the Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Estelí.
“I will fast until the police, through the president or the vice-president of the episcopal conference, and they alone, inform me that they will begin to respect the privacy of my family circle,” he said. he declared in the newspaper. video.
Far from diminishing, however, the persecution has intensified. On May 21, the government ordered the Nicaraguan television provider to cut off broadcasts from Channel 51, the church-run Canal Católico. Moreover, on May 23, in another video sent to the ACN, Bishop Álvarez, who took refuge in the parish of Santo Cristo de las Colinas, in Managua, accused the police of having set up roadblocks to prevent priests from reaching the parish to celebrate Mass with him, and for preventing the faithful from attending Sunday Mass.
Catholics in Nicaragua and abroad have defended the local Church, and specifically its bishops, including the Episcopal Conferences of Panama and Costa Rica, who have issued statements of support for Bishop Álvarez and another priest, Father Harvy Padilla, who was also harassed by the authorities.
Bishop Rolando Álvarez is responsible for the Communication Department of the Episcopal Conference of Nicaragua and has spoken publicly about the situation in his country.
This is just the latest in a series of cases of Church persecution in Nicaragua. The auxiliary bishop of Managua, Silvio Báez, had to leave Nicaragua in 2018 after receiving death threats, and many other clergy have also complained of police harassment. The tension between church and state even led to the expulsion in March of the Apostolic Nuncio, the diplomatic representative of the Holy See, a move the Vatican called “painful”.
In 2020, the Cathedral of Managua was attacked by arsonists, in what is seen as retaliation for the Church’s role in promoting peace in an atmosphere of political and social persecution, a decision strongly condemned by ACN at the time. .
In previous years, the Church had already made waves in the country by showing solidarity with popular protests against the dictatorial regime. As one priest told ACN in 2018: “I am one of the lucky ones. Many priests were forced to flee. But we cannot remain indifferent when people burst into mass because they are killing them. Because the army and the police shoot to kill, aiming at people’s heads, backs and chests.
“The gospel teaches us that we must open our doors to those who are persecuted, and that is what we have done. Our churches have been turned into havens, not opposition planning centers as the government claims,” the priest added.