Bishop Rolando Jose Álvarez Lagos of Matagalpa is monitored by police, August 2022. / Photo credit: Diocese of Matagalpa

Rome, Italy, Aug 20, 2022 / 17:49 pm (CNA).

The arrest of Bishop Rolando Jose Alvarez Lagos of Matagalpa is a “very serious act”, which must focus attention on what is happening to Christians in Nicaragua, the head of the Italian bishops’ conference has said.

Cardinal Matteo Zuppi of Bologna indicated the Italian bishops’ solidarity with their Nicaraguan counterparts in a letter sent to Bishop Carlos Enrique Herrera Gutierrez of Jinotega, president of the Nicaraguan bishops’ conference.

Zuppi’s initiative is not isolated. Cardinal Omella, president of the Spanish Episcopal Conference, had had a similar initiative, and it is to be imagined that other episcopal conferences will take a stand. On the other hand, by now the anti-Christian virulence of the Ortega presidency in Nicaragua has reached a new summit with the arrest of a bishop – and of seminarians and other priests who were with him – which took place after an escalation of invasions of his privacy, and also the closure of diocesan television channels.

The breaking point had been with the expulsion of the nuncio to the country, Archbishop Waldemar Sommertag, who had also started a difficult dialogue with the government, especially for the release of political prisoners, after the failed national dialogue in which the bishops had initially participated as mediators. Ortega had then accused them of being agents of the enemy, and the attacks, violence, even the beating of the bishops had begun.

Cardinal Zuppi underlined that “with dismay and incredulity we receive news of the harsh persecutions that the people of God and their pastors are undergoing because of fidelity to the Gospel of justice and peace.”

“In recent weeks we have followed with concern the decisions taken by the government against the Christian community, also implemented through the use of force by the military and police forces. Lately we have learned of the arrest of H.E. Msgr. Rolando José Álvarez Lagos, Bishop of Matagalpa, together with other people, including priests, seminarians and laity,” the cardinal said.

It is a “very serious act, which does not leave us insensitive and which induces us to keep our attention high on what happens to these brothers of ours in the faith”, and which took place in circumstances and contexts that “arouse particular apprehension not only because they take it aims at Christians who are prevented from the legitimate exercise of their beliefs, but because they are part of a moment in which the most elementary human rights appear to be strongly threatened.”

Italy’s bishops, therefore, join “the requests of the international community, which have also found a voice in the recent declarations of the Secretary General of the United Nations, António Guterres. We therefore ask the political leaders to guarantee freedom of worship. and of opinion not only to the exponents of the Catholic Church, but to all citizens.”

Zuppi concluded, addressing Bishop Herrera: “To you, to the confreres in the Episcopate, to all believers and to all citizens of dear Nicaragua, we assure our prayers and our constant attention to the events that concern them in this moment of particular suffering.”

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