The pontifical foundation Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) expressed its concern for the situation of the Catholic Church in Nicaragua and for Bishop Rolando Álvarez, who was sentenced on Feb. 9 to 26 years and four months in prison by the Daniel Ortega dictatorship.

“In union with Pope Francis, who expressed his sadness and concern on Feb. 12 after praying the Angelus, the ACN foundation asks the faithful to not forget the terrible situation that Álvarez, the bishop of Matagalpa and apostolic administrator of the Diocese of Estelí, is going through and requests prayers for him and for all those who are suffering in Nicaragua,” said a recent statement from ACN.

Citing a Feb. 14 article in the media outlet Nicaragua Actual, ACN warned that the regime is apparently arresting priests who mention Álvarez in their Masses, considered to be “a prohibited activity.”

“At least two priests were arrested in Madriz and Nueva Segovia for mentioning or praying for the bishop during their Sunday celebrations,” the statement said. Both towns are in the Diocese of Esteli.

According to Nicaragua Actual, the two were released hours later with the warning not to mention the bishop again. 

“For all these reasons, given the attempt to silence the prayers of the Nicaraguan people, ACN asks benefactors around the world to further redouble their prayers for the Nicaraguan Church,” the foundation urged.

Thus the Church in Nicaragua will be able to feel that it is “accompanied in the challenge that it is experiencing at this time and can continue to proclaim the Gospel and accompany its people, especially the weakest and poorest,” ACN said.

“The foundation is dismayed by the news it regularly receives of priests who have not been allowed to return to the country, of visa restrictions for men and women religious, of the control and surveillance of the movements of priests and bishops, listening in on homilies as well as the prohibition of processions and religious celebrations,” the statement noted.

In August 2022, Regina Lynch, ACN’s director of international projects, stated at that time that she was already observing “an attempt to silence the Church in Nicaragua.”

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One of the latest low points in the Nicaraguan dictatorship’s persecution of the Church was the recent sentencing of Álvarez to 26 years and four months in prison as a “traitor to the homeland” convicted of “undermining national security and sovereignty” and “spreading fake news.” The bishop was also stripped of his Nicaraguan citizenship.

Álvarez refused to be deported along with 222 other political prisoners, who were flown to Washington, D.C., on Feb. 9 in a deal with the U.S. State Department. He is apparently locked up in a maximum security cell in the Nicaraguan prison known as “Modelo.”

The deportees included some priests, seminarians, and a layman who had been sentenced to 10 years in prison.

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