Nicaraguan Bishop Rolando José Álvarez Lagos is set to face trial for alleged conspiracy on a date which has not been specified, as he remains under house arrest.
By Vatican News staff reporter
Bishop Rolando José Álvarez Lagos of Matagalpa was indicted on charges of conspiracy during a pre-trial hearing on Tuesday in which he was ordered to remain under house arrest.
The Nicaraguan bishop, who doubles as Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Estelí, is accused of “crimes of conspiracy to undermine national integrity and propagation of false news through information and communication technologies to the detriment of the Nicaraguan state and society”.
The judge has also confirmed the arrest warrant against Fr. Uriel Antonio Vallejos, pastor of the Jesús de la Divina Misericordia parish in the city of Sébaco, who is currently in exile, on the same charges.
Arrested on August 19, 2022
Álvarez is the first bishop to be arrested and indicted since President Daniel Ortega returned to power in Nicaragua in 2007.
He was taken into custody by police officers on August 19, along with priests, seminarians and lay people, after being forcibly imprisoned for two weeks in the Curia for allegedly having attempted to “organize violent groups” with “the aim of destabilizing the Nicaraguan State and attacking the constitutional authorities”.
The Bishop was subsequently transferred to his private residence in Managua under house arrest, while the other people arrested were taken to a police station in the capital.
Growing tensions between Church and government in Nicaragua
The charges against Bishop Álvarez come amid tense relations between the Catholic Church and Ortega’s Sandinista government, that began in April 2018, when the Central American country was rocked by huge protests against controversial government reforms. Ortega accused the bishops of being complicit in an alleged coup.
Following the events, several Bishops’ Conferences and organizations across the world, have expressed their solidarity with the Nicaraguan Church.
Pope’s concern for Nicaragua
Pope Francis referred to the situation in Nicaragua during the Angelus prayer on Sunday, 21 August, 2022, saying he was closely following developments “with concern and sorrow”, and expressing his hope that, “through an open and sincere dialogue, the basis for a respectful and peaceful coexistence might still be found”.
Even UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, has expressed dismay at the crackdown of the Nicaraguan government on civil society organizations, including those of the Catholic Church.