Despite persecution, ‘the Church is still alive in Nicaragua,’ priest says

Daniel Ortega Daniel Ortega. | Credit: Harold Escalona / Shutterstock

Despite being persecuted by Daniel Ortega’s regime for years, “the Church is still alive in Nicaragua,” a priest from the country told ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. 

The cleric, who prefers to remain anonymous for security reasons, said that “parish communities and families continue to suffer from the expulsion of their pastors and relatives.”

He lamented that “added to this suffering is that of the more than 90 political prisoners, among them many lay collaborators with the Catholic Church in the country,” who are imprisoned and subjected to continuous psychological torture.

“They have exiled our pastors, they have frozen parish and diocesan money, but the Church in Nicaragua is still alive and keeps going,” he said.

For the Nicaraguan priest, this is due to the fact that “God is the one who directs the Church, with the power of his Spirit and Mary Immaculate, who accompanies our people.”

He further emphasized that “the Church is not an NGO [nongovernmental organization] nor is it the opposition, as the Ortega government believes; it is something much beyond that.”

Living testimony of Bishop Álvarez

After 527 days in prison, Bishop Rolando Álvarez of Matagalpa was released and deported on Jan. 14 to Rome along with Bishop Isidoro Mora and other priests and seminarians.

“From the darkness of his cell in ‘La Modelo,’ the prison where other priests and faithful have also been imprisoned, Álvarez was a living witness of faith and a light for all the Catholics of Nicaragua,” the priest commented.

Following the deportation of the prelates and priests, the persecution still continues, he lamented. “Homilies are recorded with the express order of not praying for Bishop Rolando Álvarez,” he explained.

The Nicaraguan cleric noted that after Álvarez was deported, a few days later three priests from the Consecrated Missionaries of the Most Holy Savior congregation were abducted and exiled to Mexico.

“Priests and bishops are silenced. Pastoral and spiritual activities held outside with the massive attendance of the faithful such as processions, as well as celebrations of the feast days of patron saints and Holy Week, are also prohibited.”  

“However, priests continue their work with many limitations, many of them being monitored day by day as they carry out their scheduled pastoral activities,” he lamented.

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.

More in Americas

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.

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