The dictatorship of Daniel Ortega and his wife, Vice President Rosario Murillo, hasn’t declared a truce in its persecution of the Catholic Church in Nicaragua, not even during Holy Week.

Félix Maradiaga, a former political prisoner and also a former presidential candidate who was deported to the United States, told ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner, that the dictatorship expelled Panamanian priest Father Donaciano Alarcón from the country on Monday of Holy Week.

“They took him over the Honduran border. His ‘crime’ was that at Mass he prayed for the release of Bishop [Rolando] Álvarez,” Maradiaga said.

Alarcón, who worked at Mary Help of Christians Parish in the town of San José de Cusmapa in the Diocese of Estelí, was arrested by the police after celebrating Mass.

Álvarez, the apostolic administrator of the Diocese of Estelí and the bishop of Matagalpa, was sentenced in February to 26 years and four months in prison, unjustly accused of treason.

Since there was no news of his whereabouts for 40 days after he was sentenced, the regime showed him at the end of March eating and talking with his siblings in the “La Modelo” prison in a staged scene that was described as “repugnant and cynical” by the auxiliary bishop of Managua, Silvio Báez, who lives in exile in the United States.

The Communications and Press Office of the Archdiocese of Panama reported that Father Alarcón “is well and safe after his expulsion from Nicaragua.”

The priest met in Honduras with Father Ismael Montero Toyos, superior of the Central American Claretians, who spoke about Alarcón’s situation “and the missionaries who are still in Nicaraguan territory, most of them foreigners.”

“We prefer that they be expelled than put in jail,” Montero said.

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According to information from the Archdiocese of Panama, “Father Alarcón was accused of violating the decrees that prohibit public expressions [of faith] during Holy Week.”

Young people persecuted for ‘Cyreneans’ tradition 

Also on Monday of Holy Week, the police prohibited the tradition of the “Cyreneans” in the town of Nindirí in the Masaya district. The tradition commemorates Simon of Cyrene, who helped Christ carry his cross on his way to Calvary.

“They began to follow us as if we were criminals and the only thing we wanted to do is carry out a religious and cultural tradition that we have had for several generations,” one of the young people told the newspaper Confidencial.

“The only intention of the police continues to be to intimidate the population and prohibit any Catholic public manifestations, because they are angry with the people who express their faith,” a resident of the area told Confidencial.

In a video posted on social media, a policeman is seen warning a young man dressed in Cyrenean clothing and carrying a cross. The officer tells him: “You can’t go out with that” because “it’s prohibited.”

The young man questions the ban and exclaims in reference to the town: “This is Catholic Nindirí!”

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Aquatic Stations of the Cross canceled

The Nicaraguan newspaper Articulo66 also reported that on Monday of Holy Week the Ortega regime canceled the traditional aquatic Way of the Cross that has been held for more than 40 years in the Diocese of Granada on Lake Nicaragua, also known by the indigenous name Cocibolca.

The Via Crucis is not only a religious tradition but also a tourist activity that contributes to the economy of the local population, especially the boatmen, who are affected by this prohibition.

The Ortega regime then decided to carry out its own version of the Via Crucis on the lake, but without a priest to pray and lead the 14 meditations at the respective stations.

“Without our Church, without faith, without piety nor love, that [is] just any show, a carnival,” one of the locals told Articulo66.

Priest prevented from returning to Nicaragua

Martha Patricia Molina, a Nicaraguan lawyer and researcher, reported on March 31 that a priest was prevented from returning to Nicaragua.

“On Monday the 27th, [the department of] Migration of Nicaragua prevented the entry into the country of the priest Néstor Mendoza, from the Congregation of the Divine Word who did pastoral work in the Palacagüina town parish, Diocese of Estelí,” Molina wrote on Twitter.

According to the newspaper La Prensa, Nicaraguan Migration told Father Mendoza that his entry into Nicaragua was prohibited, without specifying why.

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