Nicaragua Releases Imprisoned Catholic Bishop Rolando Jose Alvarez, Exiles Him

(Photo by AFP) (Photo by STR/AFP via Getty Images)

John Oyewale Contributor
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Nicaraguan authorities reportedly released an imprisoned Catholic bishop and vocal regime critic Jan. 14 and promptly expelled him from the country, according to reports.

Bishop Rolando José Álvarez of the Diocese of Matagalpa was released and banished to the Vatican City alongside Bishop Isidoro Mora of the Diocese of Siuna, 15 priests and two seminarians, The Pillar reported.

The communist regime of Nicaraguan dictator Daniel Ortega reportedly jailed Bishop Álvarez in August 2022 and the others in December 2023. Álvarez reportedly was sentenced to 26 years in prison. Bishop Mora was arrested a day after calling for prayers for Álvarez in a Dec. 19, 2023 sermon.

The Nicaraguan regime said diplomatic agreements with the Vatican “guaranteed the sending and receiving in the Vatican of bishops, priests and seminarians,” according to the outlet. The U.S. reportedly was involved in the negotiations, having received four priests, a transitional deacon and two seminarians in February 2023.

The Nicaraguan regime has exiled about 110 Catholic clerics since 2018, while an unknown number of others have fled the country or refused return, the outlet noted.

Álvarez, 56, was arrested and sentenced after accusing Ortega of persecuting the Catholic Church and refusing to be exiled along with four priests and 218 other political dissidents, the Catholic News Agency (CNA) reported. Tried and sentenced for alleged treason, Álvarez also reportedly had his citizenship revoked. (RELATED: ‘I Don’t Believe In Popes’: Nicaraguan President Reportedly Bans Easter Public Processions)

Religious freedom has been curtailed under the dictatorship of Ortega and his wife and vice-president Rosario Murillo, which cut all ties with the Vatican in March 2023 after Pope Francis likened Ortega’s Nicaragua to Nazi Germany, according to the CNA.

Ortega alleged that the Catholic Church was “the perfect dictatorship” and its bishops a “gang of murderers” back in 2022, according to Aleteia, a Christian news outlet. His regime reportedly arrested Álvarez for “crimes against spirituality,” alleging that Álvarez was using social media to incite violence and destabilize Nicaragua.

The U.S. Department of State criticized Ortega for the arrest of Álvarez and other political prisoners. The Department of State also accused Ortega and Murillo of attacking educational institutions, civil society organizations and the press, and of isolating Nicaragua in a Nov. 19, 2023 statement.