Ciudad Darío on alert since the kidnapping of Monsignor Rolando Álvarez

Ciudad Darío on alert since the kidnapping of Monsignor Rolando Álvarez

In one night they drew a cross on the cobblestone with white paint. They placed two candles at the ends of it and added to that improvised mural a “Long live Christ the King” in front of the Santa Lucía parish in Ciudad Darío, located in northern Nicaragua.

The authors take risks in a country under the repression of the regime of Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo. One of the latest victims of the State is the Diocese of Matagalpa, to which his parish belongs. Eight churches are constantly besieged in that ecclesiastical territory. Their Bishop Rolando Alvarezwas kidnapped by the Police in the early hours of August 19 and they keep him locked up in his residence in Managua, while the atmosphere remains tense in the base ecclesial communities.

According to members of the community of the Santa Lucía parish, “the oppression is so great against the Church, that one like this has never been seen in the history” of the town. Supported by their faith, the residents of “Darío” decided that the best thing in the current context was to spend the night and early morning of August 19 in the surroundings of the church, while other faithful are praying inside.

The common objective has been to protect the safety of the priest Vicente Martínez, critical as the bishop kidnapped by Daniel Ortega’s regime, and whom they consider to be at greater risk since the Álvarez denouement. A riot patrol came looking for the priest from Santa Lucía on Tuesday, August 14.

At 3:00 am this Saturday, August 20, on the wall of the Charismatic Renewal page, from the same parish, a message on Facebook summarized the faith of the parishioners after hours before denouncing the presence of riot police. “This is the night that Christ won, we drove away the evil one with a thousand Hail Marys, the rosary of Divine Mercy and the Holy Way of the Cross, so we woke up today in the parish victorious, accompanying our priests,” they wrote.

That note from social networks alludes to Martínez and the vicar Sebastián López. The latter celebrated that August 14 a mass from the atrium to prevent riot police from entering the temple when the police device searched for the priest. The image of the vicar, officiating mass with people on the street, traveled the world as a sign of religious persecution in Nicaragua. There was also another photo: that of the Catholics making an effort to receive communion through the mesh of the perimeter wall. Police were, meanwhile, on a nearby corner, according to witnesses.

Read: Ortega shuffles the fate of Monsignor Álvarez: exile or house for jail

Along with the priests, there are also seminarians, members of the communication team and other people in this Church that the sources do not identify for security reasons. Everyone is united in prayer.

The priest Sebastián López, from the Santa Lucía parish, in Ciudad Darío, Matagalpa, celebrating mass in the street due to the police siege.
Photo: Video Capture

Three patrols to intimidate the town

According to “Juan”, who participated in the vigil on August 19, the Police increased their police presence in the parish sector. Three patrols have circulated constantly in an effort by the authorities to sow terror.

That same repressive strategy was implemented in the town of Mulukukú, in the Diocese of Siuna, in the northern Caribbean of Nicaragua. There kidnapped on Sunday, August 14, to the priest Óscar Danilo Benavidez Dávila, former advisor to the Youth Ministry of Matagalpa. The State will investigate him within 90 days, after a request from Prosecutor Manuel de Jesús Rugama, loyal to the government party, and for charges that the authorities did not reveal.

“Everyone (the residents of Ciudad Darío) say that the police are going crazy,” commented “Juan.” The day of the assault against the Episcopal Curia of Matagalpa, the bells rang in the parish of Santa Lucía. The residents of the sector took to the streets in support of Martínez. Another postcard of the solidarity of ordinary people with their priests, subjected to relentless persecution.

“Ligia”, another member of the community, maintains that the tension continued throughout the afternoon of this Saturday, August 20. The mass was officiated this time by López, who focused on the Christian message of remembering that the last will always be the first and that one must be a servant of others.

They prayed for the religious and for the Bishop “so that they continue with faith on high”. “People do not stop being aware of our priests. We are all attentive to the alerts and bells of our mother Church. We are praying in the temple it is true, but also in our homes”, she added.

The repression against the Bishop is one of the events that marks the intensification of the hostility of the regime against the Church. Since last June, three priests have been imprisoned: in June, Father Manuel García, in July, Monsignor Leonardo Urbina, and in August, Father Benavidez. It closed seven radio stations in the Diocese of Matagalpa. Hate speech, led by Vice President Rosario Murillo, has increased and it is not uncommon to hear baseless accusations against the religious as “coup plotters.”

Also: Police confess crime: they assault priestly house and kidnap Bishop Álvarez

In contrast to the official version, the human rights reports of national and international organizations denounced the responsibility of the State in a massive repression against citizens in 2018. These actions caused hundreds of deaths, thousands of injuries and a significant exodus of Nicaraguans who sought to protect their safety by going into exile.

In those days, the Catholic Church assumed the defense of the dignity of people and respect for human rights. The divergence with the ruling party caused the discomfort of a regime that defines itself as “Christian, socialist and supportive” in its propaganda since 2007, when Ortega took power, and that in practice has turned the Catholic Church into a target of the repression.

Hours after the operation against Álvarez, while many wondered about his whereabouts, a police statement appeared. The authorities justified the same in a Press release: they wanted to return “normality” to the people of Matagalpa, despite the fact that it was the police device that had kept them uneasy for 15 days. In fact, both police in the area changed the lives of citizens and businesses near the Episcopal Curia, on the street known as “banks.”

The Police also accused the bishop of Matagalpa of persisting in his “destabilizing and provocative” activities. On August 5, police authorities stated that he “organized violent groups” and “fomented hatred.” The accusations were rejected by different sectors, but they warned that all this could be the fabrication of a trial against the hierarch. Álvarez is respected for his prophetic voice and his fate Ortega shuffles between two possible options: exile or keeps him imprisoned in his residence in Managua.

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