Browsing News Entries

Browsing News Entries

Nicaraguan bishop responds to insults by Daniel Ortega, calling him ‘corrupt and criminal’

Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega. / Credit: Flickr Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ecuador (CC BY-SA 2.0)

ACI Prensa Staff, Feb 24, 2023 / 11:37 am (CNA).

Silvio Báez, the exiled auxiliary bishop of Managua living in the United States, responded earlier this week to the most recent insults and attacks by Nicaraguan dictator Daniel Ortega, whom the bishop called “corrupt and criminal.”

“How much ignorance, how many lies and how much cynicism! A dictator giving democracy lessons,” the bishop lamented on Twitter.

Báez said Ortega is “someone who exercises power illegitimately, criticizing the authority that Jesus granted to his Church; an atheist, corrupt and criminal, avowing he is inspired by Christ.”

Ortega spoke at a Feb. 21 event held to commemorate the 89th anniversary of the death of General Augusto C. Sandino, (1893–1934) a guerrilla fighter who opposed American intervention. Named after him, the Sandinistas were the leftist rebels who overthrew President Anastasio Somoza Debayle in 1979.

The Nicaraguan dictator took the occasion to attack the Catholic Church. He said he was raised in Catholicism and then after railing against the Catholic Church, the popes, and Spanish colonialism stated that “Christ was always solidary. His message was of peace and then they tortured him. They killed him. But Christ didn’t die; physically they killed him on the cross. But Christ rose in the peoples and he lives in Christian peoples, not by the example that the priests, bishops, cardinals, and popes can give, who are a mafia.”

After accusing the Church and the Vatican of “crimes,” Ortega  questioned: “What respect can I have for the bishops I knew here in Nicaragua, if they were Somoza supporters? I was a boy when Somoza’s funeral took place, where the bishops went, burying Somoza like a prince, like a cardinal of the Church, simply because Somoza was a henchman, who gave all the advantages to the Church.”

“He was a servant, an agent of Yankee imperialism, and they treated him like that,” added the Nicaraguan dictator, who has been in power for 16 years, since Jan. 10, 2007.

In this fluid context, Ortega was referring to Anastasio Somoza García — who died in 1956 — the father of President Anastasio Somoza Debayle who was president of Nicaragua from 1974 to 1979, the year he was overthrown by the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN), a left-wing guerrilla group and now Ortega’s political party.

More attacks by Ortega

“I don't believe in popes or kings. Who elects the pope? How many votes does the pope get?” Ortega continued in his speech.

“If we are going to talk about democracy, the people should elect, first of all, the people’s priests. The people who decide if this priest or the other seems good to them. The people should elect the bishops. The one who gets the most support from the population, well, that one will be the bishop,” he went on.

“The people should elect the cardinals and there should be a vote among the Catholic people, everywhere, so that the pope is also elected. Let the people decide and not the mafia organized there in the Vatican!” the dictator exclaimed.

Persecution of the Church in Nicaragua

One of the latest milestones in the persecution of the Church in Nicaragua by the dictatorship of Ortega and his wife, Vice President Rosario Murillo, was the recent sentencing of the bishop of Matagalpa, Rolando Álvarez, to 26 years and four months in prison.

Bishop Álvarez refused to be deported along with 222 other political prisoners, who arrived in Washington, D.C., on Feb. 9, and is supposedly being held in a maximum security cell in the Nicaraguan prison known as Modelo.

Among those deported were some priests and seminarians who had been sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Ortega in the last year also expelled from the country the apostolic nuncio — the pope’s diplomatic representative — Archbishop Waldemar Stanisław Sommertag and congregations such as the Missionaries of Charity, founded by St. Teresa of Calcutta.

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

Cuban bishops ask the faithful to pray for the Church in Nicaragua on Ash Wednesday

null / Credit: Unsplash

ACI Prensa Staff, Feb 22, 2023 / 16:00 pm (CNA).

The bishops of Cuba have called on the faithful to offer prayers on Ash Wednesday for the persecuted Church in Nicaragua, where the dictatorship of Daniel Ortega has exiled several priests and sentenced the bishop of Matagalpa, Rolando Álvarez, to 26 years in prison.

In a Feb. 18 message, the Cuban prelates referenced Pope Francis’ request to pray for Nicaragua.

At the end of his Feb. 12 Angelus prayer, the Holy Father expressed his concern and sadness over the Feb. 9 expulsion of 222 political prisoners from the country — including some priests — and the sentence against Álvarez announced the following day. “I pray for them and that dear nation, and I ask for your prayers,” Francis said.

In their message, the Cuban bishops said that they welcome the “pope’s invitation to prayer” and make their own the pontiff’s call for the Lord to “open the hearts of political leaders and all citizens to the sincere search for peace, which is born of truth, justice, freedom, and love, and is achieved through the patient exercise of dialogue.”

“In fraternal communion with our Nicaraguan brothers and sisters, we invite the Cuban Catholic faithful to pray for that suffering Church and people,” they said.

The Cuban bishops encouraged the faithful to pray for the Church in Nicaragua as “a special intention” during the Ash Wednesday Masses, “and also during the Stations of the Cross that we usually do on Fridays of the holy season of Lent.”

“The Lord walks alongside us on the pathways of pain and the cross. And he assures us with his resurrection that love is stronger than hate. And life always triumphs over death,” the prelates said.

The bishops noted that “this certainty strengthens us in hope and helps us to live the Lenten season with a renewed commitment to love God and our brothers.”

“We beg the intercession of the Blessed Virgin, so loved by Nicaraguans and Cubans, so that our peoples can walk along paths of peace and respectful acceptance of all,” the message of the Cuban bishops concluded.

On Open Doors’ World Watch List 2023, Cuba was ranked 27th and Nicaragua 50th in the “very high” level of persecution of Christians.

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

Petition demanding release of Nicaraguan bishop delivered to embassy in Mexico City

Demonstration outside the Nicaraguan embassy in Mexico. / Credit: Courtesy of Activate

ACI Prensa Staff, Feb 21, 2023 / 15:30 pm (CNA).

The Actívate and Solidart platforms have delivered a petition with 11,000 signatures to the Nicaraguan embassy in Mexico City condemning the human rights violations committed by dictator Daniel Ortega and demanding the release of the bishop of Matagalpa, Rolando Álvarez.

Members of both platforms held a peaceful demonstration and a prayer vigil in front of the Nicaraguan embassy to express their condemnation of the abuses and violations of human rights in the Central American country.

The Ortega dictatorship on Feb. 10 sentenced Álvarez to 26 years in prison, accusing him of “treason” and stripping him of his Nicaraguan citizenship.

A day earlier, the bishop, a critic of human rights abuses in the country, refused to board the plane that brought more than 200 political prisoners, including four priests, to the United States in an agreement the regime negotiated with the U.S. State Department. 

According to Nicaraguan media, Álvarez is being held in a maximum security cell in the Modelo prison in Managua.

In a statement in conjunction with the delivery of the signatures, Hugo Rico, director of Solidart, said that “we strongly condemn the rampant religious persecution of the Catholic Church by the Daniel Ortega regime in that country, since it undercuts with impunity the right to religious freedom, established in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”

The platforms demanded the prompt release of Álvarez and also demanded that the Mexican government show solidarity with the Nicaraguan people and condemn the outrages of the Ortega regime.

“We accompany the delivery of signatures of the campaign that Solidart began on Aug. 12 to demand an end to the persecution against the Catholic Church of Nicaragua,” said Uriel Esqueda, Actívate campaign leader.

Esqueda pointed out that “throughout the six months the campaign has been open, it has been signed by more than 11,300 people concerned about the serious intolerance that prevails in the sister Central American country at the hands of a government that has no room for criticism nor for those who think differently.”

In another gesture of solidarity, the bishop of Tilarán-Liberia in Costa Rica, Manuel Eugenio Salazar Mora, traveled to the border with Nicaragua to pray for Álvarez.

“The closest I can be to my brother +Rolando Álvarez, Bishop of Matagalpa,” the prelate wrote on Facebook Feb. 16.

When Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity were expelled from Nicaragua in July 2022, Salazar welcomed them into his diocese.

“I was able to pray Thursday’s Eucharist for our brother people of Nicaragua, for the Church, for its pastors and especially for its inhabitants,” the Costa Rican bishop said.

“My pastor’s heart feels wounded by the unjust imprisonment of +Bishop Álvarez, but it fills me with strength to have come to the Nicaraguan border to pray for him,” Salazar wrote.

“Let’s not stop imploring the Immaculate Conception for a miracle for Nicaragua. Long live Christ the King!” he concluded.

Also praying for Álvarez’s miraculous release was Father Erick Díaz, one of the 222 political prisoners exiled from Nicaragua by the Ortega regime on Feb. 9.

In a video shared Feb. 18 by Father Manuel Dorantes on Twitter, Díaz, who will be serving at St. Mary of the Lake Parish in Chicago, asks for continued prayers “for our Bishop Rolando Álvarez, who has been sentenced to 26 years in prison, to tell the world and God to continue accompanying him in this great miracle that we continue to ask for.”

“Justice will shine and injustice does not have the last word,” the priest stressed.

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

Rector reports more pilgrimages to Our Lady of Guadalupe Shrine than before pandemic

The Virgin of Guadalupe in Guadalupe Basilica in Mexico City. / Photo credit: David Ramos / ACI Prensa

ACI Prensa Staff, Feb 21, 2023 / 14:30 pm (CNA).

Monsignor Salvador Martínez, rector of the Guadalupe Basilica in Mexico City, noted that after two years of pandemic restrictions the Marian shrine “has resumed the impetus it had before and sometimes with greater strength.”

Speaking with ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner, the Mexican priest stressed that “many people have returned after having been isolated for a long time or having had to refrain from coming to the basilica.”

“Some pilgrimages had to be suspended for two years, some for up to three years. Now they have regained great strength, [and are] very well organized.”

Martínez, who was appointed rector of the Guadalupe Basilica in September 2018 by the archbishop primate of Mexico, Cardinal Carlos Aguiar, pointed out that after the pandemic and with the reestablishment of activities, “we are really happy and also challenged since the reorganization of the basilica to respond as best as possible to the expectation of encountering the Blessed Virgin.”

“We have particularly noticed this at the end of the second half of last year and all throughout this beginning of the year 2023,” he said.

In 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, pilgrimages to the Guadalupe Basilica were suspended. That year, access to the shrine, which traditionally welcomes crowds to sing the “Mañanitas” to the Virgin on the night of Dec. 11, was closed Dec. 10–13.

In December 2021, a year later, access to the Guadalupe Basilica was allowed under a “special protocol.”

Finally, in December 2022, with the reopening of the shrine to pilgrims, a historic figure of 12.5 million visitors was reached.

On Dec. 12, 2022, Pope Francis announced a nine-year novena to the Virgin of Guadalupe as part of the upcoming celebration of the 500th anniversary of the Marian apparitions in 1531.

Martínez noted that in the context of this novena and the upcoming celebration of the “second millennium of redemption in 2033,” the basilica “has resumed a very noticeable vigor in this year 2023.”

The rector of the Marian shrine recalled that when the basilica was “totally” closed in December 2020, “access to all the pilgrims who used to come for the Guadalupan festivities was prohibited.”

To inspire the pilgrims to express their devotion in other ways, Martínez said that various campaigns were organized, such as the collection of flowers, candles, and dried petals, which were then placed in the basilica as a sign of the remote participation of devotees.

This display of love for Our Lady of Guadalupe, as well as the work done by the basilica, “thanks be to God has been preserved by two physical testimonies” to the devotion of the faithful, the priest said.

“The first is a permanent exhibition that is in the Marian Plaza museum, which is called ‘Signs of Your [the faithful’s] Presence,’” he explained. “This exhibition documents and has several physical testimonies of what this 2020 Guadalupan celebration was like.”

“The second physical testimony is the book called ‘Gifts for the Queen,’ published by the basilica at the end of 2022,” which records what this historical event was like “since at no other time has the basilica been closed,” the rector said.

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

Ortega dictatorship in Nicaragua expels Italian priest from the country

Father Cosimo Damiano Muratori. / Credit: Sanctuary Of The Servant Of God Odorico D Andrea

CNA Newsroom, Feb 17, 2023 / 12:30 pm (CNA).

The Nicaraguan dictatorship led by President Daniel Ortega and his wife, Vice President Rosario Murillo, has expelled Italian priest Cosimo Damiano Muratori from the country after the priest called the 26 years and four months prison sentence for Bishop Rolando Álvarez a “historic action.”

Father Muratori “intervened in an insulting manner in matters concerning only Nicaraguans,” the Ministry of the Interior said in a press release.

In addition, the Nicaraguan government said that INTERPOL Italy requested the priest’s flight itinerary because he was sentenced in 2009 to four years and six months in prison in the city of Perugia for the crime of sexual violence.

However, the Article 66 news site confirmed that the priest’s data does not appear on the international organization’s website.

The Nicaraguan media outlet also reported that on Sunday, Feb. 12, Muratori spoke about the sentence against Álvarez, the bishop of Matagalpa, and his decision to stay in Nicaragua.

“He was on the list of those who had to go to the United States. Did Bishop Álvarez leave? Why didn’t he leave? Because he didn’t want to! In the end, 222 people took the plane and one didn’t. Was Bishop Álvarez right? He stayed and, to me, he’s a real man with mettle. They’re putting me in prison, [then] throw me in prison,” the priest said regarding the bishop during his homily at the El Tepeyac Franciscan Shrine in Jinotega.

The Ortega dictatorship deported 222 political prisoners to the United States on Feb. 9. Álvarez refused to board the plane with the deportees and decided to stay in Nicaragua.

The following day, Álvarez was sentenced to 26 years and four months in prison, accused of “treason,” “spreading fake news,” and “aggravated obstruction of an official in the performance of his duties to the detriment of the State and the Republic of Nicaragua.” 

Following Muratori’s criticism in his homily, government officials visited the priest and asked him to report to the General Directorate for Migration and Foreigners (DGME) in Managua the following day.

The priest left early in the morning to keep the appointment requested by the Nicaraguan authorities and his whereabouts were unknown until his expulsion from the country was announced.

Muratori is rector of the El Tepeyac Franciscan Shrine in the town of San Rafael del Norte in the Jinotega district and vice postulator of the cause for canonization of the Servant of God Odorico D’Andrea, an Italian Franciscan missionary known for his evangelizing work in northern Nicaragua.

In 2021, and after several decades of service to the Church in Nicaragua, the DGME withdrew Muratori’s residency permit. Since then, the priest renewed his stay in the country every 90 days.

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

Archbishop: Bolivia AG ‘wants to intimidate us’ by having bishops testify about coup d’etat

Archbishop Percy Galván of La Paz, Bolivia. / Credit: Episcopal Conference of Bolivia

CNA Newsroom, Feb 16, 2023 / 11:30 am (CNA).

In the case known as “Coup I,” Bolivia’s attorney general’s office has requested that 10 bishops testify regarding their role in the alleged 2019 coup d’état that led to the resignation of President Evo Morales.

Archbishop Percy Galván of La Paz, the nation’s capital, charged that the move is an attempt to “intimidate us,” and two former presidents have decried this effort as persecution of the Church.

In 2019, Morales ran for the fourth time in a row, despite the fact that a referendum in 2016 had prohibited a fourth term for a president.

Morales was re-elected in a process questioned by international organizations over suspicions of fraud. Amid widespread protests and strikes, Morales fled the country and was granted political asylum in Mexico and later in Argentina.

After Morales’ departure, the second vice president of the Senate, Jeanine Áñez, became interim president of the country. 

For Morales’ political party, the Movement Toward Socialism (MAS), to which current president Luis Arce also belongs, this constituted a coup d’état. 

Also in the “Coup I” case, in December 2022 the governor of the large Santa Cruz Department, Fernando Camacho, was arrested and accused of the crime of terrorism.

In that same process, the authorities are now requesting that the prelates who participated in the meetings to restore peace to the country in 2019 testify.

Among them are Archbishop Ricardo Centellas, then vice president of the Bolivian Bishops’ Conference (CEB); Bishop Aurelio Pesoa, former deputy general secretary of the CEB; and Giovanni Arana, auxiliary bishop of El Alto.

Archbishop Galván spoke Feb. 12 with the local press and reaffirmed the position of the bishops’ conference “to always be available to clear up any doubts on this issue, that of our participation as bishops and that of the participation of the Church in those difficult and critical moments that our country had to go through.”

Regarding the events of 2019, he pointed out that “the police had mutinied, the Army was confined to their barracks, we were totally unprotected. We had to do something.”

“We are Bolivians, we are children of God, and we made available our good offices so that a solution could take place. It may not have been the most perfect, but it was the one that pacified [the country], to a great extent,” he acknowledged.

“They want to intimidate us, but I think this is to not know the nature of the Church,” he pointed out. “They’re giving us more fortitude, they affirm us in what we are doing with all respect and love for our constitution, our laws, and our authorities.”

“We’re not going to act arbitrarily in any way,” he assured.

The prelate told the UNITEL television station that “we know the issue of persecution. We know of our brothers who are deprived of liberty in different prisons in the country, for political reasons, of course, with other pretexts, pretexts such as terrorism, conspiracy, coup d’état ... and if this is going to extend to the Church, it wouldn’t be uncommon; we’ve seen it in Nicaragua, where a bishop has been arrested because he didn’t want to accept [exile].”

“We are already old priests; they have been threatening us, persecuting us. It’s already a long story,” he noted.

“The fact of being religious doesn’t prevent us from giving any statement. We do not enjoy, as is falsely understood, any privilege,” Galván said.

The former president of Bolivia, Carlos Mesa, criticized the proceedings by the authorities and pointed out on social media that “in its desire to hide the monumental fraud of 2019 as attested by the OAS, the EU, and international observers; and emulating the dictator Ortega, the MAS now seeks to persecute bishops who defend democracy and human rights. Political persecution in its crudest execution.”

Ortega has accused the Nicaraguan bishops of plotting a coup d’état during the 2018 anti-government demonstrations as well as in the bishops’ support for the protesters’ call for early elections (to possibly replace Ortega).

Former president Jorge “Tuto” Quiroga warned that President Arce was “turning into another Ortega” in reference to the Nicaraguan dictator, by “attempting to crucify bishops, whose mediation the MAS requested in 2019.”

In addition, he believes that Pope Francis “must speak out about the persecution of the Church in Bolivia.”

In 2021, the Bolivian Bishops’ Conference itself presented a document to the pope and the Bolivian Attorney General’s Office that includes the participation of the CEB in the 2019 political crisis.

In that document, the bishops explained the negotiations that took place at the Catholic University before Áñez took office as president of Bolivia and they rejected any accusation linked to “an alleged coup d’état.”

In June 2022, with Morales’ ally Arce in power, Áñez, after 15 months in preventative detention, was sentenced in what is known as the “Coup II” case to 10 years in prison on the charge that she assumed the presidency illegally.

The archbishop emeritus of Sucre, Jesús Juárez, told the Bolivian Fides News Agency that he doesn’t see the need for the religious authorities to be summoned to testify, since “the Church has already put all its good offices at disposal and also made a document, in which she makes clear everything that took place.” They shouldn’t have to “repeat everything like a broken record.”

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

Church seeks justice for beatified Argentine who was slain more than 40 years ago

Blessed Wenceslao Pedernera. / Credit: Argentine Catholic Action

CNA Newsroom, Feb 16, 2023 / 08:00 am (CNA).

The Diocese of La Rioja in Argentina and the family of Blessed Wenceslao Pedernera, one of the four Martyrs of Rioja, announced that they will be plaintiffs in the case involving Pedernera’s murder in a trial for crimes against humanity perpetrated by the 1976-1983 military dictatorship in the country.

An armed forces officer is named as the intellectual author of the crime.

The public oral hearings to establish the facts concerning the crime that took place July 25, 1976, will begin March 10.

The hearings will take place in the chamber of the Federal Court of La Rioja, presided by Judge José Camilo Quiroga Uriburu, who will be joined by judges Mario Martínez and Juan Carlos Raynaga.

The diocese said in a statement that “along with the Pedernera family, [the diocese] is participating in the proceedings as a private complainant through the lawyers representing them, Dr. Mirta Sánchez and Dr. Pablo Ramiro Fresneda.”

The diocese also asked “our good God to enlighten those who will take part in this trial so that, after so many years, the truth and justice of this terrible deed can be made known.”

“May they open the way for forgiveness, reconciliation, and peace for which Blessed Wenceslaus worked for and gave his life for,” the diocese said.

Wenceslao Pedernera

Blessed Wenceslao Pedernera was born Sept. 28, 1936, in La Calera in San Luis Province. From a very young age he helped his parents with farmwork. 

He then moved to Mendoza, where he worked as a rural laborer in vineyards. There he met Marta Ramona Cornejo, whom he married. The couple had three daughters.

Prompted by his wife, Pedernera began to actively participate in the Catholic Church, joining the Rural Movement of Catholic Action Argentina in the Cuyo region. Later he participated in the pastoral work of the bishop of La Rioja, Enrique Angelelli, moving to Sañogasta in 1972. 

According to the diocese, the layman “was attacked by an Army task force who gunned him down in front of his wife and daughters. He died hours later at the Chilecito hospital. His last words were to ask his family not to hate.”

Pope Francis officially recognized the cause of his death as “martyrdom in hatred of the faith” like that of the other martyrs from La Rioja: Bishop Enrique Angelelli and priests Gabriel Longueville and Carlos de Dios Murias, murdered days apart during the last Argentine military dictatorship.

Pedernera was beatified March 27, 2019. His feast day is July 17.

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

Venezuela is falling back into ‘extreme poverty,’ archbishop says

A Pray for Venezuela banner at Campo Santa Maria la Antigua in Panama City, Jan. 24, 2019. / Jonah McKeown/CNA.

ACI Prensa Staff, Feb 14, 2023 / 13:30 pm (CNA).

Ulises Gutiérrez, the archbishop of Ciudad Bolívar and second vice president of the Venezuelan Bishops’ Conference, lamented that the country is falling back into “extreme poverty.”

In a statement to ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner, Gutiérrez noted that “hunger is more acute every day; there is great need in all sectors of the country.”

“We have six soup kitchens where 100 meals a day are given to children and the elderly,” he said, adding that “maintaining these soup kitchens is extremely expensive and we’re looking for resources,” most of which “come from the outside with the support of Cáritas.”

To demonstrate the seriousness of the situation in the country, the prelate pointed out that the salary of a doctor “is seven dollars a month” while “basic nutrition is 400 dollars.”

“It’s impossible to sustain yourself with these starvation wages,” he stressed.

After more than 20 years of the socialist dictatorship initiated by former President Hugo Chavez and continued by his successor, political ally Nicolás Maduro, Venezuela is suffering from a social and economic crisis that many compare to Cuba’s.

A recent report from the Venezuelan Economic Finance Observatory reported that the annualized inflation rate in the country was 440%.

The archbishop of Ciudad Bolívar told ACI Prensa that in the country, “the economy has not improved at all; rather, it’s getting worse.”

“They kept the currency stable, more or less, injecting dollars into the Central Bank. But this fell apart beginning in the month of December,” he continued.

The prelate lamented that currently “there are 8 million Venezuelans outside the country.”

“We receive a lot of aid from abroad, but sometimes it’s [only] for periods of time,” he said.

“Unfortunately, hopelessness remains very deep-seated and there is a great sadness among the population,” he said.

With presidential elections expected to be held 2024, some believe it could mean the end of the Chavista regime. There are many obstacles to overcome, however.

Gutiérrez opined that “there is still no strong candidate. Nor do we see in the distance a rebound so the population could once again have hope.”

For the archbishop, it’s evident “that the opposition agrees with the government.”

“There are some leaders who are really against the government, but the people have lost faith,” he said.

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

Latin American bishops pray for Nicaraguan Bishop Álvarez at cathedral where St. Oscar Romero is buried

Bishop Rolando Álvarez of the Diocese of Matagalpa, Nicaragua. / Credit: Diocese of Matagalpa

ACI Prensa Staff, Feb 14, 2023 / 09:45 am (CNA).

The bishops of the Latin American Bishops’ Council (CELAM) offered a Mass Monday in El Salvador’s Metropolitan Cathedral of San Salvador, where the remains of St. Óscar Romero are interred, for the intentions and prompt release of Bishop Rolando Álvarez of the Diocese of Matagalpa, Nicaragua, and several Nicaraguan priests.

Romero was an outspoken critic of political injustice in the country and of the violence affecting the lives of ordinary Salvadorians. He was shot to death in 1980 while saying Mass by an assassin tied to the military dictatorship.

Monday’s Mass in San Salvador was part of the opening of the regional assembly for Central America-Mexico of the continental phase of the Synod on Synodality.

In a Feb. 11 letter, Archbishop Miguel Cabrejos of Trujillo, Peru, and president of CELAM, said that the Eucharist is to be “an expression of the solidarity and heartfelt fraternity of our Latin American and Caribbean Church with those who are unjustly deprived of freedom in Nicaragua.”

The bishops of Guatemala also expressed “their solidarity with Bishop Rolando Álvarez, a courageous shepherd devoted to his people and his sheep, who has faced persecution for a long time and now imprisonment by the prevailing regime in Nicaragua.”

The bishops offered their “prayer to almighty God for that sister country and for all those who suffer in it, in a special way for Bishop Rolando Álvarez, that the Lord may assist him in his ordeal and give him strength in this time when he is being treated so unjustly.”

The dictatorship of President Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua sentenced Álvarez, the bishop of the Diocese of Matagalpa, to 26 years and four months in prison on Feb. 10, accusing him of being a “traitor to the homeland.”

The sentencing of the prelate, who was also stripped of his Nicaraguan citizenship by the dictatorship, came just one day after the regime deported 222 political prisoners to the United States, including several priests and seminarians.

The Managua Court of Appeals had also ordered Álvarez to be deported, but according to Ortega, the bishop refused to board the plane that would have carried him to freedom unless he could first consult with the priests already on the plane and the Nicaraguan bishops. 

Ortega called this request “absurd” and the court found the prelate in contempt for refusing deportation, although the agreement reached with the U.S. State Department stipulated that no one could be forced to leave the country.

Pope Francis offered prayers Sunday for Alvarez and the deportees.

“Irrational and unbridled hatred of the Nicaraguan dictatorship against Bishop Rolando Álvarez. They are vengeful against him,” wrote the exiled auxiliary bishop of Managua, Silvio Báez, on Twitter.

“They have not withstood his moral greatness and his prophetic coherence. Rolando will be free, God will not abandon him. They are sinking every day into their fear and their evil,” Báez said.

The Spanish Bishops’ Conference (CEE) expressed in a Feb. 11 statement its pain over the “worrisome situation that is being experienced in Nicaragua” with the mass deportation of political prisoners and the sentencing of Álvarez. 

“At this moment we join the sentiments of the bishops of the Nicaraguan Bishops’ Conference who are suffering persecution by the country’s government for defending the freedom of Nicaraguans,” the Spanish prelates said.

The bishops of Spain also urged “the Nicaraguan authorities to listen to the voice of the people they serve, make their decisions in a spirit of service for the good of all, and release prisoners imprisoned for political reasons.”

“May Our Lady of Lourdes watch over their Church and their pastors in Nicaragua and may harmony and peace be restored to the country soon,” they concluded.

The Spanish government has offered the deportees Spanish citizenship.

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

Photo: Lightning strikes Christ the Redeemer statue in Brazil

Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. / Credit: Shutterstock

CNA Newsroom, Feb 14, 2023 / 08:14 am (CNA).

Lightning struck Rio de Janeiro’s iconic Christ the Redeemer monument, one of the Seven Wonders of the World, and a photographer managed to capture the precise moment.

The lightning bolt struck the afternoon of Feb. 10, and photographer Fernando Braga shared the picture on Instagram.

“Unstoppable. Never give up. Many frustrated attempts to capture lightning falling on the [statue of] Christ. Many rains and days passed. I was close a few times, but I had never captured this on the [statue of] Christ,” the photographer wrote.

“It’s the place that I love to photograph! I already have a very special photo for me that was of the blessed moon and now I have the divine lightning!” Braga exclaimed.

The Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro was dedicated on Oct. 12, 1931, the feast of Our Lady Aparecida, patroness of Brazil.

It is made of reinforced concrete and lined with soapstone. It is 125 feet tall and stands on a 26-foot pedestal. The outstretched arms are 92 feet wide.

In 2006, on the 75th anniversary of its dedication, Cardinal Oscar Scheidt, then archbishop of Rio, created the Archdiocesan Shrine of Christ the Redeemer of Corcovado.

In 2007, the Christ the Redeemer was chosen as one of the new Seven Wonders of the World in a global voting campaign sponsored by the New 7 Wonders Foundation.

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.