Nicaragua claims that it freed 12 priests after an agreement with the Vatican

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The Nicaraguan dictatorship reported that it has released 12 priests it had imprisoned and sent them to the Vatican after an agreement was reached with the authorities of the Catholic Church.

Bishop Rolando Álvarez of the Diocese of Matagalpa was not among those released. Álvarez was sentenced on Feb. 10 to 26 years and four months in prison. A day before the sentence, the prelate refused to be part of the group of 222 deportees who were sent to the United States and who were then stripped of their nationality and property in Nicaragua by the dictatorship of Daniel Ortega.

In a press release dated Oct. 18, the Ortega regime announced that the release of the 12 priests took place “after fruitful conversations with the Holy See.” The priests, the release said, are headed to the Vatican and “traveled to Rome, Italy, this afternoon.”

In the release, the government stated that the agreement was reached “with the intercession of high authorities of the Catholic Church in Nicaragua and the Vatican.”

The group will be received “by personnel of the Secretariat of State of the Holy See,” the release said.

The Vatican’s office of communications released a statement Thursday afternoon confirming that the Holy See had been asked to receive the priests.

“I can confirm that the Holy See has been asked to receive 12 priests from Nicaragua who were recently released from prison. The Holy See has agreed; they will be received by an official of the Secretariat of State in the afternoon and housed in some facilities of the Diocese of Rome,” read the statement from Matteo Bruni, director of the Holy See Press Office of the Roman Curia.

The Vatican did not respond in time for publication to requests from ACI Prensa and CNA to confirm whether the Holy See was involved in arranging for the release of the priests.

The released priests are Father Manuel Salvador García Rodríguez and Father José Leonardo Urbina Rodríguez from the Diocese of Granada; Father Jaime Iván Montesinos Sauceda from the Diocese of Matagalpa; and Father Fernando Israel Zamora Silva from the Diocese of Siuna.

Also released are Father Osman José Amador Guillén, Father Julio Ricardo Norori Jiménez, Father José Iván Centeno Tercero, Father Yessner Cipriano Pineda Meneses, Father Álvaro José Toledo Amador, and Father Eugenio Rodríguez Benavidez, all from the Diocese of Estelí.

Completing the group of released priests are Father Cristóbal Reynaldo Gadea Velásquez from the Diocese of Jinotega; and Father Ramón Angulo Reyes from the Diocese of Bluefields.

On Oct. 15, eight of these priests were sent to El Chipote prison, known as a torture prison.

In a statement sent to ACI Prensa, Felix Maradiaga, a former political prisoner and president of the Foundation for Nicaraguan Freedom, expressed his “deep joy for the release of the unjustly detained pastors.”

However, he expressed his “firm demand for the release of Bishop Rolando Álvarez of the Diocese of Matagalpa and the numerous other political prisoners who remain in custody.” This group would be made up of more than 80 people.

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

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