published : 2023-11-09

Republican Senator Pushes State Department for Information on Bishop Imprisoned by Ortega Regime

Nicaraguan Dictator Daniel Ortega Considers the Catholic Church an Enemy of His Government

A U.S. senator, Eric Schmitt, speaking at a press conference demanding the release of the imprisoned bishop. Photo taken with a Canon EOS 5D Mark IV.

A U.S. senator is demanding the Department of State to release information on an imprisoned foreign bishop who refused exile to the U.S. after being arrested by his communist government.

Republican Sen. Eric Schmitt of Missouri published a letter to the Department of State, urging for information on the ongoing persecution of Christians in Nicaragua under the communist regime of Daniel Ortega.

Schmitt highlights the Nicaraguan government's relentless targeting, harassment, and human rights violations against the Catholic community solely because of their religious beliefs.

Instances such as the banning of over 1,000 Catholic processions during Lent and Easter, the expulsion of two congregations of nuns, including the Missionaries of Charity order founded by Mother Teresa, and the closure of the Catholic charity Caritas, demonstrate the government's discrimination against the Catholic Church.

Ortega has accused Catholic leaders of conspiring against him and cites their involvement as mediators during the 2018 protests in Nicaragua, which led to around 300 deaths.

Senator Schmitt, who is a devout Catholic and a strong advocate of religious freedom, emphasizes the need to bring attention to the imprisonment of Bishop Alvarez and ongoing harassment faced by Catholic students, staff, and clergy at Central American University under the Ortega regime.

Supporters of the Catholic community in Nicaragua protesting against the Ortega regime's persecution. Photo taken with a Nikon D850.

He calls for the Biden administration to prioritize protecting Catholics from persecution in Nicaragua.

Bishop Rolando Alvarez, the Roman Catholic bishop of Matagalpa diocese, was sentenced to over 26 years in prison for alleged treason after refusing exile to the United States.

He was initially placed under house arrest in 2022 after speaking out against the Ortega regime's human rights violations and the closure of several important Catholic radio stations.

In addition to treason, Alvarez was convicted of undermining national integrity and spreading false news.

Senator Schmitt requests the release of Alvarez and seeks information on his whereabouts, physical health, treatment by his captors, and right to practice his faith.

Last August, Alvarez declined to join several other priests and political prisoners in being expelled to the U.S. as part of a prisoner exchange with the U.S. State Department, expressing his solidarity with other persecuted Catholics in Nicaragua.

Bishop Rolando Álvarez addressing a crowd during a religious gathering before his arrest. Photo taken with a Sony Alpha a7 III.

He has not been seen publicly for over 200 days.

The senator criticizes the Ortega regime for its increasing efforts to suppress religious freedom and urges diplomatic efforts to halt the persecution of the Catholic Church in Nicaragua.

Schmitt emphasizes that the actions of the Ortega regime, including the arrest and sentencing of Bishop Alvarez and the widespread religious persecution of the Catholic community, are inhumane and against the moral, ethical, and legal standards upheld by the United States and the international community.

Earlier, the Nicaraguan government released 12 Catholic priests to the custody of the Holy See after talks with the Vatican.

Alvarez was not among the priests released.

The State Department has been given a deadline of January 10, 2024, to respond to Senator Schmitt's requests.