Priests confront dictatorship in Nicaragua: ‘Let us work in peace!’

Daniel Ortega President Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua | Public Domain

The priests of the Diocese of Estelí in Nicaragua called on the authorities of the dictatorial regime of Daniel Ortega to convert, to allow them to work in peace, and to release their apostolic administrator and bishop of Matagalpa, Rolando José Álvarez Lagos, who is being held under house arrest. 

“We call on you to convert and to stop hassling us. Let us work in peace! Release the bishop, the priests, and the laity and the Lord will have mercy on you, if you convert from the heart,” the clergy of Estelí wrote in a statement released Aug. 23.

The message was posted on Facebook after a series of attacks by the Ortega dictatorship against the Catholic Church in several cities in the country, especially in Matagalpa, where Álvarez was abducted from the chancery in Matagalpa in the middle of the night and placed under house arrest in Managua after being accused without evidence of promoting violent groups to destabilize the regime.

Along with him, other priests, seminarians, and a layman were abducted from the chancery, where they all had been forcibly confined for days by police and taken to the infamous El Chipote prison in Managua.

The Estelí clergy reminded the regime that the “incitement to hatred and violence” really occurred “when Mr. Daniel Ortega, in the official act of July 19, 2018 (commemorating the victory of the Sandinista revolution in 1979), publicly accused some bishops of being coup plotters, terrorists.”

“Since then, there are countless times ... that they throw all kinds of expletives, offenses, and defamations, not only at the bishops, but also at us priests,” the clergy said.

“Our nature and peaceful pastoral mission have made us patiently endure such barbarities,” the priests added.

The clergy also said that the accusations of the Ortega dictatorship, “such as being coup plotters,” are “unfounded,” because “there was no coup d’état here, because coups d’état are carried out by armies, and here the army hasn’t done a coup to anyone. That exists only in your mind.”

“What happened here in 2018 was a protest by the people, which in the end left a huge number of young Nicaraguans killed,” the message said.

The priests of Estelí demanded that the authorities “respect the Political Constitution of the Republic” and reproached them for doing “whatever they want with the laws, they manipulate them, they create them by decree to imprison citizens.”

“What they are doing to Bishop Álvarez, the apostolic administrator that Pope Francis chose for us, they are doing to all of us. He hasn’t committed any crime, he’s an innocent person who has a clear conscience,” they said.

The priests stressed that the dictatorship is “persecuting the Church for its prophetic mission,” since “it’s the only one that is capable of denouncing its constant violations of human rights.”

“When they persecute the Church ... it is Christ himself whom they persecute,” the priests pointed out.

“We will continue to pray so that the Lord grants them his Holy Spirit and they can correct all these barbarities that are being done to our Nicaraguan Church,” the statement continues.

Finally, the Nicaraguan priests said that they felt strengthened by “the closeness, pain, and concern of our Pope Francis” and thanked “all the bishops’ conferences that have shown solidarity.”

“We reiterate our closeness and our unconditional support, not only to our apostolic administrator, to the priests, and to the laity, unjustly imprisoned, but to the other bishops of the Nicaraguan Bishops’ Conference, who experience as personally done to them the abuse that has been done to their brother in the episcopate,” the statement concludes.

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

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