San José, Oct 18 (EFE).- Nicaragua has released 12 jailed priests and sent them to the Vatican after reaching an agreement with the Holy See, the government said Wednesday.
View of De Leon Cathedral in Leon, Nicaragua, on 27 July 2011. EPA FILE/Mario Lopez
In a statement, President Daniel Ortega’s administration said that “after holding fruitful conversations with the Holy See,” an agreement was reached for the transfer to the Vatican of 12 priests “who, for different reasons, were prosecuted, and who have traveled to Rome, Italy, this afternoon.”
The priests will be received in Rome by personnel from the Secretariat of State of the Holy See, Managua said.
Not among them, however, was Bishop Rolando José Álvarez Lagos, an Ortega critic.
Rolando Álvarez, 56, was sentenced in February to more than 26 years in prison for conspiracy and stripped of his citizenship after refusing to get on a flight from Nicaragua to the United States along with 222 other political prisoners that the country exiled.
A screenshot showing Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega during the ceremony of the 43rd anniversary of the Nicaraguan Army in Managua, Nicaragua on Sep. 2, 2022. EFE/Jorge Torres
Pope Francis described Ortega as “mentally unbalanced” and his government as a “crass dictatorship,” according to an interview published by Infobae on March 10.
“With great respect, I have no other choice but to think that the person in power is mentally unbalanced. We have an incarcerated bishop there, a very responsible man, a very capable man. He wanted to testify and did not accept exile,” Francisco said.
Ortega, who has aggressively pursued the Catholic Church, calling it an “organized mafia,” declared relations with the Vatican suspended.
Álvarez is the first bishop arrested, accused and convicted since Ortega returned to power in 2007, after coordinating a junta from 1979 to 1985, and presided over Nicaragua for the first time from 1985 to 1990. EFE