01 January 2024, The Tablet

Christmas in Nicaragua sees wave of clergy arrests

The Nicaraguan authorities made a series of arrests beginning with the detention of Bishop Isodoro del Carmen Mora Ortega of Siuna on 20 December.

Christmas in Nicaragua sees wave of clergy arrests

Matagalpa Cathedral, where Fr Jader Guido prayed for Bishop Rolando Álvarez and “all the priests and religious of our diocese” on Christmas Eve. He was arrested and then released.
Rommel F Mend / Wikimedia Commons

The Archbishop of Managua made a rare public intervention on New Year’s Eve in response to a wave of arrests of clergy over the Christmas period.

In a statement read out for him in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Managua, Cardinal Leopoldo Brenes broke his customary silence to address “the families and communities who feel the absence of their priests or experience other sorts of pain”, saying: “I am with them.”

“It is time for us to seek together in prayer the consolation of God and strength in our unity as a Church,” he said. “Let us ask the good God for the grace of wisdom.”

Pope Francis voiced his “deep concern” for Nicaragua after the Angelus on Monday.  Remembering “bishops and priests [who] have been deprived of their freedom”, he expressed “closeness in prayer to them, their families, and the entire Church in the country”.

“I hope that we always seek the path of dialogue to overcome difficulties,” Francis said. “Let us pray for Nicaragua today.”

The Nicaraguan authorities had made a series of arrests over the previous weeks, beginning with the detention of Bishop Isodoro del Carmen Mora Ortega of Siuna on 20 December, the day after he had said in the Matagalpa cathedral that the bishops conference was “united in prayer” for the imprisoned Bishop of Matagalpa Rolando Álvarez

Two seminarians were detained with him. Their whereabouts is still unknown.   

Two Matagalpa priests were also detained but then released.  The vicar general, Mgr Oscar Escoto, was seized by police and armed civilians on the night of 21 December, freed the next morning and seized again that night but released again on 23 December.  

Fr Jader Guido, a curate of Matagalpa cathedral was arrested after Sunday Mass on 24 December, when he had prayed for Bishop Álvarez and “all the priests and religious of our diocese”.  He was released before midnight on the same day. Mgr Escoto and Fr Guido are reported to be under police supervision.

On 28 December, three priests from the Archdiocese of Managua were arrested – its vicar general Mgr Carlos Avilés, its treasurer Fr Héctor Treminio, and Fr Pablo Villafranca.

The next day, Church sources reported the arrest of Mgr Marcos Días Prado, parish priest of the Church of St Thomas the Apostle in Puerto del Corinto, in the Diocese of Leon in western Nicaragua.  

Three other Managua priests were also arrested on 29 December, Mgr Miguel Mántica – the diocesan vicar for ministry to families – and Fr Raúl Fonseca and Fr Mykel Monterrey. Fr Fonseca has been a vigorous critic of the government of Daniel Ortega, accusing it of promoting “unprecedented hatred” of the Church.

On 30 December three other Managua priests, Fr Gerardo Rodríguez, Fr Fernando Téllez Báez and Fr Jader Hernández, were arrested.

On New Year’s Eve, Fr Gustavo Sandino of the Diocese of Jinotega was arrested after celebrating Sunday Mass.

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