Four more priests have been arrested been arrested in Nicaragua in the past month.
On Sunday 1 October Fr Julio Ricardo Norori, Fr Iván Centeno and Fr Erick Ramírez were seized by men in plain clothes.
Fr Norori is the parish priest of St John the Evangelist church in San Juan del Río Coco and Fr Ramirez is the parish priest of Christ the King, both in the north-west department of Madriz.
Fr Centeno is the parish priest of the church of the Immaculate Conception of Mary in Jalapa, in the neighbouring department of Nueva Segovia.
Three weeks earlier, on the night of Friday 8 September, Fr Osman José Amador was seized from a clergy meeting by anti-riot police, who burst into the Our Lady of the Rosary Cathedral in Estelí without explanation and took him to an unknown destination.
Analyst Patricia Molina suggested that Fr Amador may have been arrested because he had used his homilies to call for prayers for the imprisoned Bishop of Matagalpa Rolando Álvarez.
Another factor in the arrests may be that all four priests belonged to the Diocese of Estelí, where Bishop Álvarez is the apostolic administrator.
Ms Molina said that Fr Amador’s arrest may also be connected to the arrests in May of Fr Leonardo Guevara – a priest at the Estelí cathedral – and Fr Eugenio Rodríguez.
Fr Rodríguez, of the Divine Providence parish in the city of Jalapa (also in the Nueva Segovia department), had previously intervened as a negotiator in June 2018 after police launched a violent crackdown on protests against the increasingly authoritarian regime of President Daniel Ortega.
Fr Rodríguez and Fr Guevara have been taken to a church training centre in Managua. There has been no official statement about their case since then.
The latest arrests bring the number of priests detained by the Nicaraguan authorities to nine.
Others include Fr Jaime Iván Montesinos of the John Paul II parish in Sébaco, in Álvarez Diocese of Matagalpa, and Fr Manuel Salvador of the Jesus of Nazareth parish in Nandaime, Granada and Father Leonardo Urbina of the Perpetual Succour parish in the Boaco province, both closer to the capital Managua.
During his address to the UN General Assembly on 26 September, the Vatican secretary for relations with states, Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, said he wished to “transmit our solidarity to Nicaragua” and expressed a hope that “a respectful diplomatic dialogue, including the local churches, will be in the interest of the county’s people”.
The imprisoned Bishop Álvarez has been nominated by 43 members of the European Parliament for the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, the European Union’s highest honour for human rights. The recipient will be announced on 10 October.