Monseñor Rolando Alvarez

Nicaragua Frees 12 Catholic Priests Under Vatican Agreement

The government of Nicaragua has released 12 Roman Catholic priests and sent them to Rome in accordance with a deal forged with the Vatican. 

In a statement issued on October 18, the government of President Daniel Ortega said that the priests, who were detained on various charges, were freed following “fruitful conversations with the Holy See.”

The agreement with the Vatican, the government statement added, demonstrated the “permanent will and commitment to find solutions.” 

Ortega had previously asserted that the Catholic Church supported the widespread demonstrations against his government in April 2018, which he viewed as a perceived coup attempt.

On October 15, eight of the 12 recently freed priests were transferred to El Chipote prison, notorious for its association with torture, the Catholic News Agency reported.

Notably absent from the list of priests released was Bishop Rolando Álvarez of the Diocese of Matagalpa. He had been convicted of conspiracy and received a 26-year prison sentence in February 2023.   

Just one day before his sentencing, the prelate declined to be included among 222 deportees who were sent to the United States as part of a deal brokered by the U.S. government. Their Nicaraguan citizenship and property rights were subsequently revoked. 

Felix Maradiaga, a political detainee and the head of the Foundation for Nicaraguan Freedom, conveyed his “deep joy for the release of the unjustly detained pastors.” 

Nevertheless, he emphatically called for the release of Bishop Álvarez and what he described as “numerous other political prisoners who remain in custody”—a group that, according to the Catholic News Agency’s estimation, comprises over 80 individuals.

According to the news agency, the priests who have been set free include Manuel Salvador García Rodríguez and José Leonardo Urbina Rodríguez, both from the Diocese of Granada; Jaime Iván Montesinos Sauceda, hailing from the Diocese of Matagalpa; and Fernando Israel Zamora Silva, who belongs to the Diocese of Siuna. 

Additionally, Osman José Amador Guillén, Julio Ricardo Norori Jiménez, José Iván Centeno Tercero, Yessner Cipriano Pineda Meneses, Álvaro José Toledo Amador, and Eugenio Rodríguez Benavidez—all affiliated with the Diocese of Estelí—have been released.

The ensemble of released priests is rounded out by Cristóbal Reynaldo Gadea Velásquez, from the Diocese of Jinotega, and Ramón Angulo Reyes from the Diocese of Bluefields.