ROME — Nine days after a bishop was arbitrarily placed under house arrest in Nicaragua, Cardinal Leopoldo Brenes on Sunday urged people to trust “fully in the Lord, not in strategies.”
Brenes was originally scheduled to be in Rome this weekend, to participate in the consistory on Saturday for the creation of new cardinals.
However, due to his mother’s poor health, Brenes decided at the last minute to stay home.
During his Sunday Mass in the Cathedral of Managua, he said that “the strength of the humble is the Lord, (is) to trust fully in the Lord, not in strategies, not in human means, not in the logic of what world, no to calculations, not to grand speeches, not to applause.
Brenes was created a cardinal by Pope Francis in 2014. In 2018, the cardinal attended a consistory in Rome accompanied by Bishop Rolando Alvarez, and the two briefed the pontiff on Nicaragua’s socio-economic crisis.
Alvarez has been under house arrest in Managua since August 19after being prevented by the police from leaving his diocesan seat for two weeks.
During this period, Vice President Rosario Murillo said Alvarez was under investigation for “crimes against spirituality.” After being officially placed under house arrest, Nicaraguan police claimed that Alvarez had been imprisoned following attempts by authorities to engage with the bishop. Police said they were asking him to stop his “destabilizing and provocative” actions.
Several priests and seminarians who had been with the bishop were arrested and sent to the notorious prison of El Chipote, where President Daniel Ortega holds some 190 political prisoners.
Francis spoke of ongoing efforts to silence dissenting voices in the country, particularly within the Catholic hierarchy. The bishops are the only remaining opposition, after the Ortega regime shut down newspapers and radio stations, hundreds of NGOs, and even expelled 15 members of the Missionaries of Charity. On Sunday 21, after the arrest of Alvarez, the sovereign pontiff expressed his concern and his pain for the situation in Nicaragua and asked for “an open and sincere dialogue” so that “the bases of a respectful and peaceful coexistence can be found”.
Francis’ words did not improve Alvarez’s situation, instead fueling an internal debate about what the Catholic Church should do for his release.
A possible meeting between Brenes and Francis this week was seen as a chance to clarify the Vatican’s position, since the government expelled the Holy See’s representative to the country.
Brenes said Sunday the situation would be resolved.
“Always the Lord, in the midst of our problems, of difficult situations, will always find a moment when he makes himself present,” he said.
Last week, the priests of the diocese of Esteli in northern Nicaragua, of which Alvarez is the apostolic administrator, accused the Ortega regime of “persecuting the Church for its prophetic mission” in an open letter.
The government persecutes the Church “because it is the only one capable of denouncing its constant violations of human rights, forgetting that when it persecutes the Church, in the person of its servants the bishops, priests, laity, it is Christ himself they persecute,” the letter reads.
The incitement to hatred and violence was initiated by Ortega, the clerics claimed, when, in an official act, the government “publicly accused certain bishops of being putschists, terrorists and since then it has There are countless times when you, who should set an example of civility and respect, hurl all sorts of insults, offenses and defamations.
Bishop Silvio Baez, Auxiliary Bishop of Managua, was asked to leave the country by Pope Francis in 2019 after the Nicaraguan prelate began receiving death threats.
Speaking Sunday from St. Agatha’s Church in Miami, Bishop denounced the Ortega regime for holding Alvarez and demanded his release along with the other priests held in captivity.
Alvarez, he said, “is deprived of his freedom, kidnapped, by the police of the dictatorship. I join him in his loneliness, in his pain, and I ask everyone to join him. A bishop is a successor of the apostles, and with him I think of the priests, seminarians and lay people of Matagalpa, who are in a torture prison of the dictatorship of Managua and of all the political prisoners. This is all unfair! All of this is organized violence, which we can neither accept nor forget.
Baez also underlined the lack of humility of dictators: “The history of our peoples demonstrates this with arrogant dictators, who deify and impose themselves with irrationality and violence. There are tyrants who not only want to be the first, but the only ones: the only ones to have a voice, the only ones to decide, the only ones to think.