07 December 2023, The Tablet

Nicaragua publishes images of Álvarez as priests report interrogation

A recent opinion survey has found that 72 per cent of Nicaraguans believe that Bishop Álvarez is innocent and should be released.

Nicaragua publishes images of Álvarez as priests report interrogation

The Nicaraguan authorities published pictures of Bishop Rolando Álvarez in El Modelo prison.
Ministerio de Gobernación de Nicaragua

The Nicaraguan government banned processions for the Immaculate Conception, which normally take place as part of a novena leading up to the feast day on 8 December. 

In Granada, where the celebrations go back to the eighteenth century, the cathedral authorities were reportedly told in November that no processions could take place, with devotions instead to be held inside churches. Similar reports came from Managua and León.

The government organised alternative celebrations, such as a competition for the most beautiful altar in honour of the Immaculate Conception.

Nicaraguan authorities published a 20-page report on the health of the imprisoned Bishop of Matagalpa Rolando Álvarez, who was sentenced to a term of 26 years in February.

The report contained results of medical examinations carried out on 29-30 November, together with 34 photographs of these and previous examinations and of visits from the bishop’s family members between March and October.

On 28 November the ministry also published a video showing Bishop Álvarez in a large, comfortably furnished room watching television, and with a table laden with food and drink, though the bishop looked gaunt and tired. 

In an accompanying note, the ministry said: “As can be seen from the video and the photographs, the conditions of detention are preferential, and the conditions for regular medical examinations, visits from family members and receiving parcels are being strictly complied with, contrary to what slanderous campaigns would have the public believe.”

Former prisoners from the El Modelo prison where Álvarez is held said that the room shown in the video is reserved for foreign diplomats or families visiting foreign prisoners.

A recent opinion survey has found that 72 per cent of Nicaraguans believe that Bishop Álvarez is innocent and should be released.

Two priests from the Diocese of Matagalpa have told the US Congress they were interrogated more than 30 times in prison by state officials eager to incriminate Bishop Álvarez.

Giving anonymous testimony to the House of Representatives, one priest said: “During interrogation sessions [prison officials] threatened me and my family, because they wanted me to declare that the bishop was a member of an organisation that promoted a coup d’état and that received money from the United States and the European Union.”

The second priest told the House’s Foreign Relations Committee that in the eyes of their interrogators “we were members of a criminal organisation whose leaders were the bishops, with Álvarez at the head.”

He added: “They accused me of giving hate speeches, of organising an uprising.”

Both priests said their interrogations began on 19 August 2022, the day they were ejected from Matagalpa’s curial offices and detained in El Chipote prison, where they were interrogated at all hours of day or night.

At the start of the hearing, the representative for New Jersey, Christopher Smith said: “We call on President Daniel Ortega to release Bishop Álvarez from prison and set him free.”

He continued: “Release him from prison. Out of an abundance of concern for Bishop Álvarez’s welfare and health, let him come to the United States or to the Vatican or somewhere else, or stay right in Nicaragua, where he can again serve the people, preach the good news and the Gospel, and care for the weakest and most vulnerable.”

  Loading ...
Get Instant Access
Subscribe to The Tablet for just £7.99

Subscribe today to take advantage of our introductory offers and enjoy 30 days' access for just £7.99