The situation that the Church in Nicaragua is experiencing is a source of pain and concern. On 11 February, Bishop Rolando Álvarez of Matagalpa was sentenced to 26 years in prison and lost Nicaraguan citizenship. In the previous days, four Catholic priests, two seminarians and a deacon from the diocese of Matagalpa, arrested together with the bishop, had been sentenced to ten years.
On behalf of the Presidents of the European Bishops’ Conferences, meeting in assembly, the CCEE President, Gintaras Grušas, expresses the sympathy and solidarity of the European episcopate to the citizens and to the Catholic Church of Nicaragua. He considers this condemnation to be a serious wound both to relations between the Church and the government of the country, and to the rule of law.
In fact, since his arrest in August 2022, it has been unclear what the charges against Bishop Álvarez were, other than the official ones of “false information” and “treason”. It was impossible to follow the trial in detail and to understand how the charges were supported and proven. We only heard regarding the conviction. A conviction, it was learnt, that would not have been forthcoming if the bishop had instead agreed to leave the country with more than 200 political prisoners who travelled in recent days to the United States.
The Church has never wanted anything other than to contribute to the welfare of the country in which it serves. Even in times of greatest persecution, the Church has supported the weakest, consoled the suffering and given refuge. It is doing so also in Nicaragua.
The President of the Council of European Bishops’ Conferences calls on all brother bishops to make their governments aware of the serious violation of the rule of law that is taking place in Nicaragua. At the same time, he calls on the Nicaraguan authorities to listen to the voice of the people and to take decisions that favour a peaceful transition in a country that has been experiencing social conflict for five years now. He calls for the release of political prisoners as a sign of goodwill to restore a dialogue that can lead to a just social peace, and which will allow the country to prosper.
The Churches throughout Europe embrace the Church in Nicaragua, Bishop Álvarez and the priests currently imprisoned, renewing their affection and support and, accepting the call of Pope Francis to pray “for them and for all those who suffer in that dear nation”, asking the Lord “to open the hearts of political leaders and all citizens to the sincere search for peace that comes from truth, justice, freedom and love”.
H.E. Msgr. Gintaras Grušas
Archbishop of Vilnius and CCEE President
Photo from VaticanNews