24 December 2023, The Tablet

Second bishop arrested in Nicaragua

Bishop Isidro del Carmen Mora Ortega was the first member of the bishops’ conference to mention Bishop Rolando Álvarez in public.

Second bishop arrested in Nicaragua

Bishop Isidro del Carmen Mora Ortega of Siuna is a former vicar general of the Diocese of Matagalpa.
Diocese of Siuna / CNA

A second bishop has been arrested in Nicaragua as Daniel Ortega’s regime intensified its campaign against the Church ahead of Christmas.

Police and paramilitaries detained Bishop Isidro del Carmen Mora Ortega of Siuna, a diocese in the north-east of the country, on 20 December as he travelled to administer confirmation in the town of La Cruz de Río Grande. 

The previous day, Bishop Mora had announced that the Nicaraguan bishops’ conference was praying for Bishop Rolando Álvarez of Matagalpa, who is currently serving a 26-year prison sentence for “subversion”.  

Bishop Mora was speaking at a Mass in Matagalpa’s San Pedro Cathedral to celebrate the 99th anniversary of the creation of the diocese, where he was born and previously served as vicar general.

“I wish to express to you the greetings of the bishops’ conference. We are constantly united for this beloved Diocese of Matagalpa, praying for Mgr Rolando, praying for the journey that each of you is on,” he said.

“We are united in prayer, in communion, in faith, love and tenderness.” 

This was the first time any representative of the conference had mentioned Bishop Álvarez in public.  Two seminarians, Alester Saenz and Tony Palacio, were detained with the bishop as they travelled for the confirmations in the next day.

On 18 December the International Committee of the Red Cross announced that the Nicaraguan government had asked it to close its offices in the country, where it ran programmes including support visits for prisoners.

The UN deputy high commissioner for human rights, Nada Al-Nashif, said that Nicaragua was suffering from the deterioration of “fundamental freedoms, exacerbating the suffering of the people, fuelling the exodus of young people, and undermining the future of democratic institutions”.

Speaking in Geneva, she said that the authorities “persecute those who can contribute with an alternative vision to the public sphere, such as political and indigenous leaders, members of the Catholic Church, activists, and journalists”.

Reports from Nicaragua this week said the government had banned posadas, the traditional Nativity celebration where children or adolescents process from house to house in search of shelter to commemorate the journey of Mary and Joseph.

The Nicaraguan human rights lawyer Martha Molina said that police had banned the processions from the streets, saying they could only take place inside churches.

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