Who is Rolando Álvarez, Catholic bishop symbol of resistance against the dictatorship in Nicaragua

Rolando José Álvarez Lagos, 55 years old, was already a symbol of the resistance of the Catholic Church and Nicaraguan society against the Sandinista dictatorship.

This Friday (19), this symbolism gained even more strength: after many hostilities by the regime of dictator Daniel Ortega, Álvarez and seven other people were arrested by the authorities Nicaraguans at the episcopal headquarters of Matagalpa, in the center-west of the country.

Ortega believes that bishops and priests supported demonstrations that asked for his departure in 2018, protests that were repressed with extreme violence, resulting in more than 300 deaths.

This year, the pace of persecution against the Church increased: before Álvarez’s arrest, the Sandinista regime had Apostolic Nuncio Waldemar Stanislaw Sommertag was expelled from the country, arrested three priests, closed eight Catholic radio stations, removed three Catholic channels from pay-TV programming and invaded a parish, where missionary nuns of the Mother Teresa of Calcutta order were expelled from .

Álvarez’s older sister, Vilma, told Magazine Magazine , from the newspaper La Prensa, that his brother, born in the capital Managua, showed a vocation for the priesthood from an early age: as a child, he gathered his family at home to celebrate mass and called himself Father Miguel.

Also according to Vilma’s account, Álvarez refused to perform his mandatory military service under the Sandinista dictatorship in the 1990s 1980. He was arrested “two or three times” and the family home was searched. To escape persecution, he lived for a while as a refugee in Guatemala.

Álvarez had a girlfriend and even considered marriage, but the Church’s call was stronger: in December of 1994, at 28 years old, he was ordained a priest in the Cathedral of Managua. In 2011, he took over the Diocese of Matagalpa.

The bishop came into the sights of the Sandinista dictatorship in 2018, when the Church tried to mediate dialogue between Ortega and the opposition. At the time, Álvarez stated that there was “no other path” other than “the democratization of the Republic of Nicaragua.”

His position as a social leader against repression gained strength this year: in May, Álvarez denounced the persecution against the Church and announced that he would fast indefinitely in protest.

In early August, when the bishop denounced that he had been held in his Curia by police forces without knowing the reason , along with six priests and six lay people, an emblematic scene: after police prevented parishioners and Álvarez’s assistants from entering the diocese to receive the Eucharist, the monsignor knelt on the sidewalk and raised his hands to the sky, an image that went viral. on social media.

When the departmental police chief of Matagalpa, Sergio Gutiérrez, asked the bishop to cooperate, Álvarez replied: “You are the one who does not cooperate.”

“The police say that we are the ones causing the riot. But they were the ones who surrounded the curia street, they are the ones who are at the door of my house and do not let people in”, he declared.

This Friday, the de facto arrest and the transfer to Managua, on the charge that Álvarez had tried to “organize violent groups”, allegedly “with the aim of destabilizing the Nicaraguan State and attacking the constitutional authorities”, without any evidence being presented.

When he was held in the curia, the bishop had already expressed that his protest did not admit of hatred against the oppressors: he prayed “also for those who keep us detained, we continue to ask the Lord to bless their lives, their marriages, their families, their jobs, may the Lord bless your food, your steps.”

However, he also asked the Catholic faithful to “keep alive hope, remain strong in love and live in the freedom of the children of God, knowing that the Lord will fulfill his word: the Lord will restore Nicaragua.”

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