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In a disconcerting display, Rome and U.S. bishops maintain an eerie silence as Bp. Rolando Álvarez of Nicaragua has languished in jail for almost a year. Despite the gravity of the situation, both our pope and prelates choose to remain silent.
Álvarez's arrest last August, orchestrated under the dictatorial rule of Nicaraguan strongman Daniel Ortega, reveals a stark reality. The bishop, renowned for his vocal opposition to Ortega's oppressive regime, was swiftly targeted.
Since Álvarez's arrest, Ortega's iron fist has forcibly expelled hundreds of his adversaries, leaving a trail of shattered lives in his wake.
Nevertheless, Álvarez's indomitable spirit endures. He is determined to remain in Nicaragua, even amid the confines of his prison cell.
In February, when presented with Ortega's offer of freedom, Álvarez resolutely declined. Nicaraguan human rights defender Bianca Jagger aptly noted, "Bishop Álvarez Lagos, following in the footsteps of Jesus Christ, is 'the good shepherd who will lay down his life for his sheep.'"
His most recent refusal to flee Nicaragua serves as a poignant testament to his unwavering commitment to confront Ortega's oppressive regime until the bitter end. But while he valiantly defends his faith and his people, the silence from Pope Francis and our bishops resounds deafeningly.
This silence has left numerous devout Catholics seething with frustration. In these tumultuous times, few bishops have demonstrated such unwavering resilience and unyielding determination to uphold the Church amidst unparalleled persecution.
Rome and our bishops, however, choose to avert their gaze, as if the troubles in Nicaragua were mere illusions.
In a striking juxtaposition, Cdl. Blase Cupich of Chicago recently embarked on a journey to Ukraine, where he offered resolute support to Ukrainians grappling with the Russian conflict.
Might I suggest, Cdl. Cupich, that your attention would be better served by directing your flight towards Nicaragua, where a polite plea to Ortega for the release of Bp. Álvarez and other political prisoners could make an indelible impact?
Nicaragua, situated within our own hemisphere, beckons for attention and concern from the Catholic Church, regardless of Her global ranking of priorities.
Moreover, Nicaragua stands as a bastion of Catholicism, in stark contrast to Ukraine, where Roman Catholicism represents a mere 8% of the populace.
Granted, a flight to Nicaragua may be brief, but we must acknowledge the perils that lie in wait within Ortega's dictatorial grip. The U.S. State Department warns of arbitrary enforcement of laws and a pervasive sense of danger that envelopes the nation.
Nonetheless, Cdl. Cupich stands as a singular prelate amidst a sea of silence. Where are the voices of his fellow bishops, who should speak out against the atrocities inflicted upon the people and the Church of Nicaragua? Their silence is deafening.
This distressing state of affairs forces us to question the Church's commitment to justice and unwavering faith. With bishops as passive as this, it seems increasingly likely that Bp. Álvarez will languish in prison for years to come. Let us fervently pray that this fate shall not befall him.