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Nicaraguan police prevent Bishop from leaving home

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By James Blears

Bishop Rolando Alvarez, from the northern Nicaraguan Diocese of Matagalpa, had criticised the government’s closing of five Catholic radio stations, and then the police moved in.

They stopped him and six Catholic priests from leaving their residence and going to the nearby Cathedral to celebrate Mass.

Police officers have set up barriers, preventing people from freely coming or going.

Bishop Alvarez and 12 other people have been stuck in his residence since Thursday.

“They told us that we are under house arrest,” said Bishop Alvarez during a Mass on Saturday which he broadcast on social networks from his house in Matagalpa.

Allegations of inciting violence

Nicaraguan authorities, who take their orders from President Daniel Ortega and his wife, Vice President Rosario Murillo, have little tolerance for any voice of criticism or dissention. More than 150 opposition leaders are under lock and key.

Police accuse Bishop Alvarez of using media and social networks to incite acts of violence and destabilise the country, and say they are preparing formal charges.

He is appealing to authorities to stop this harassment, requesting that religious freedom be respected.

Physically prevented from going to the Cathedral on Thursday, the 55-year-old Bishop knelt on the sidewalk to give the Eucharistic blessing, saying: “We celebrate the Blessed Sacrament in the street, because Jesus Christ is the Lord of Nicaragua.”

The European Union says this police action is arbitrary and yet another violation of human rights as well as religious freedom.

Mediation efforts

The Church has been trying to act as mediator by seeking dialogue to resolve Nicaragua’s worsening crisis, which started with widespread anti-government protests in 2018, which were crushed.

76-year-old Daniel Ortega was again re-elected last November, after opposition candidates were barred from participating and jailed.

In March, the Government declared the then-Apostolic Nuncio to Nicaragua, Archbishop Waldemar Stanisław Sommertag, persona non grata and expelled him.

Nicaragua then recalled their Ambassador to the Vatican.

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