Pope Francis voiced his concern over the continued detention of Bishop Rolando Alvarez in Nicaragua on Sunday, according to Reuters.
“The news from Nicaragua has grieved me not a little and I cannot help but remember with concern the Bishop of Matagalpa, Monsignor Rolando Alvarez,” Pope Francis told a crowd gathered in St. Peter’s Square, according to Reuters.
Alvarez received a prison sentence of over 26 years on Friday after refusing to board an amnesty flight Thursday to the United States with other political prisoners, Reuters reported. He is known for his vocal criticism of Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega.
Pope Francis prays for peace and dialogue in Nicaragua at today’s Angelus, following news of the sentencing of the Bishop of Matagalpa, Rolando Alvarez, and the expulsion of 222 people to the United States: “Let us pray together to Our Lady.”#PopeFrancis #Angelus pic.twitter.com/C58VFDSHsw
— Vatican News (@VaticanNews) February 12, 2023
Ortega accused Catholic leaders who served as mediators amid deadly 2018 protests in the Central American country of attempting to overthrow his government, Reuters reported. The protests killed around 300 people. (RELATED: REPORT: Catholic Priest Burned Alive In Nigeria)
The conviction of Alvarez, which included charges of treason and spreading false news among others, follows a broader pattern in Nicaragua that has included the expulsion of numerous Catholic nuns and missionaries, according to Reuters.
The Nicaraguan government, known for stifling political dissent, has also closed Catholic news outlets amid the broader crackdown, according to Reuters.