Communist Nicaragua Jails Bishop After Prayer for Persecuted Christians

Daniel Ortega
INTI OCON/AFP via Getty Images

The communist Sandinista government of Nicaragua arrested Monsignor Isidro del Carmen Mora Ortega, the bishop of the Diocese of Siuna, on Wednesday shortly after he presided over a Mass in which he prayed for an imprisoned bishop, Monsignor Rolando Álvarez, who is sentenced to 26 years in prison for “treason.”

Álvarez is the bishop of the Diocese of Matagalpa. Given his status as a political prisoner, Mora presided over a Mass on Tuesday to mark the ninety-ninth anniversary of the Diocese of Matagalpa, ensuring that the Nicaraguan Catholic Church would not forget Álvarez and praying for his safety and freedom.

Communist Nicaraguan dictator Daniel Ortega has been at war with the Catholic Church since 2018, when a series of anti-communist protests, many of them led by students, erupted in the country. Church leaders vocally opposed Ortega’s brutality in suppressing the peaceful protests and offered sanctuary to students seeking shelter from state violence. Extensive evidence surfaced in that year of Ortega’s regime thugs torturing protesters, including American citizens, and killing more than 300 people to silence anti-communist sentiment.

Nicaragua Catholic

People await the arrival of the students of the National Autonomous University of Nicaragua (UNAN), who hid overnight in a church during an attack by government forces at the Cathedral in Managua on July 14, 2018. (MARVIN RECINOS/AFP via Getty Images)

In 2022, Ortega explicitly declared “war” on the Vatican. He has referred to bishops specifically as “terrorists” seeking to overthrow his communist rule.

“A coup d’état, an institution like the Catholic Church, using its bishops here in Nicaragua to carry out a coup d’état. Since when are priests ready to stage a coup? And since when do they have the authority to speak of democracy?” Ortega said. “Who elects the priests, the bishops, the pope, the cardinals? How many votes? Who gives them to them?”

Ortega has since weaponized the state against the Catholic Church, ordering widespread arrests of priests and laypeople and threatening Catholics to keep them from organizing public religious events. He has also banned the Jesuit order from operating in Nicaragua and seized critical Church assets, including frozen bank accounts. Catholic laypeople have accused the regime of sending police officers to intimidate community leaders out of organizing public religious events, including longstanding Nicaraguan traditions to worship the Virgin Mary and other key Christian figures.


Catholics carry an image of the Virgin Mary during a pilgrimage to the Cerro Negro volcano, asking for an end to violence in the country, in Leon, Nicaragua, on August 14, 2018. (INTI OCON/AFP via Getty Images)

The Sandinistas declared Monsignor Álvarez the leader of the alleged coup attempt, finding him guilty in a sham trial of “treason” in 2022 and imprisoning him for 26 years, which rendered him a stateless person, a violation of international law.

Nicaragua is a majority Catholic nation, and Ortega himself claims to be Catholic. About 50 percent of the population identifies as Roman Catholic, 33.2 percent as Evangelical Christian, and another 2.9 percent as other religions; nearly 85 percent of the population is Christian.

In his homily on Tuesday, Monsignor Mora reportedly declared that the Episcopal Conference of Nicaragua was united in supporting Álvarez and encouraged the faithful to pray for the persecuted.

Nicaraguan Catholic bishop Rolando Alvarez speaks to the press at the Santo Cristo de Esquipulas church in Managua, on May 20, 2022. - Alvarez, a strong critic of Daniel Ortega's government, started on Thursday a hunger strike in protest against what he considers a persecution and police siege against him. (Photo by AFP) (Photo by STR/AFP via Getty Images)

Nicaraguan Catholic Bishop Rolando Alvarez speaks to the press at the Santo Cristo de Esquipulas church in Managua on May 20, 2022. (STR/AFP via Getty Images)

“We are always united praying for this beloved Diocese of Matagalpa, praying for Monsignor Rolando, praying for the paths of every one of you. We are united in prayer, in communion, in faith, in love, in tenderness,” Mora was quoted as saying. Mora cited a parable by Jesus in which he said a good shepherd would leave 99 safe sheep to find one that goes missing.

“We live in times, brothers, where we have to leave one to save the other 99,” he lamented, stating that this leaves sheep to find the shepherd on their own and “assume their missions.”

“We sometimes find despair, but how lovely it is to always find people of faith, people who are there in silence,” Mora said, continuing, “people who are serving the Church, people who are there persevering.”

A day later, on Wednesday, local news outlets reported that Sandinista state security intercepted and abducted Mora on the way to an event for the confirmation of 230 Catholics, most believed to be children.

The Nicaraguan outlet 100% Noticias cited an anonymous source who stated that Mora was whisked off the street into a police truck. It is unclear at press time where Mora is or why he was detained.

Mora joins a growing number of persecuted members of the Church in Nicaragua. According to a report published by human rights researcher Martha Patricia Molina, Ortega banned more than 3,000 religious activities, the vast majority Catholic, between April 2018 and December 2023. The Sandinistas also reportedly engaged in 667 direct aggressions against the Catholic Church.

Testifying to Congress in December, anonymous victims of the communist regime told Congress that they were arrested, interrogated, and tortured for being Catholic. Several witnesses said their interrogators were attempting to incriminate Álvarez, describing him as the head of an alleged organized criminal syndicate.

We were accused of being members of an organized crime gang, and that the leaders were the bishops, and above all, they said Rolando [Álvarez]. I was accused of undermining the dignity of the state and of Nicaragua, of spreading false news,” one witness detailed.

Another recalled his or her abduction by Nicaraguan police at 3:00 a.m., with no warrant or any explanation, as a result of the person’s faith and potential ties to Monsignor Álvarez.

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