This is the reality of Nicaragua, “which for several years has been undergoing religious persecution, increasingly systematic, which the Sandinista regime has ramped up in recent months.”
Nevertheless, he stressed that “people are not afraid to express their faith” and pointed out that during the time that Álvarez was in prison, “he preached day and night” by his suffering for the faith. “His witness encouraged hope, strengthened us, and made the dictatorship tremble.”
Ortega targets clergy
On Aug. 4, 2022, Álvarez, who was also apostolic administrator of the diocese of Estelí, was forcibly confined by the regime’s police to his residence along with four priests, one deacon, two seminarians, and one layman who were with him at the time.
They all remained surrounded and not allowed to leave when in the early hours of Aug. 19 they were transferred to Managua, the capital. The clerics were incarcerated in the La Modelo prison outside of town, while Álvarez was placed under house arrest in the city.
In a deal with the U.S. State Department, on Feb. 9, 2023, the dictatorship deported 222 political prisoners to America, including clergy and laity.
As the bishop refused to leave the country, he was taken to La Modelo prison and on Feb. 10 was sentenced to 26 years and four months in prison, stripped of his Nicaraguan citizenship and attending rights for the crime of treason, as Ortega told the public in a speech.
The bishop remained in the prison for 527 days until he was exiled to the Vatican on Jan. 13 along with Bishop Isidoro Mora of Siuna, who had been arrested Dec. 20, 2023.
Also exiled were 15 priests from different dioceses and two seminarians who were arrested between Dec. 20 and Dec. 31, 2023. These are in addition to the 12 priests also deported to the Vatican on Oct. 18, 2023.
This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.