SAN JOSE – Nicaraguan police on Friday arrested two more Catholic priests, bringing the number of clergymen detained this week to at least eight, according to two sources close to the church and opposition groups in exile.
The sources, who declined to be named for fear of arrest, said the two priests were taken into custody for publicly praying for jailed Bishop Rolando Alvarez, the most prominent critic of President Daniel Ortega.
“All were arrested for refusing to stop mentioning Bishop Alvarez in their sermons,” one of the sources said, naming Marco Diaz and Bayardo Aguilar as the latest clerical detainees.
The source said later on Friday that Aguilar had been released.
The government has not issued any statements explaining the priests’ alleged crimes.
Alvarez, the bishop of Matagalpa, forcefully criticized the government’s deadly response to mass protests that broke out in 2018, and was convicted of treason and sentenced to a 26-year prison term earlier this year.
Over the past few years, Ortega’s government has targeted leaders of the Catholic church, a crackdown which officials in the past have said was needed to punish treasonous behavior or other alleged crimes.
On Thursday, two more high-ranking priests were arrested, both with close ties to Cardinal Leopoldo Brenes, the archbishop of Managua and the highest-ranking figure in the country’s Catholic hierarchy.
Brenes has made no public pronouncements on the arrests, and he declined to comment when Reuters reached him by phone on Friday.
Last week, the police arrested Bishop Isidro Mora of the Siuna diocese, making him the second bishop to be detained after Alvarez’s detention in 2022.
The enforcement actions against Nicaragua’s Catholic church, including broad surveillance of priests, intensified earlier this year, Reuters reported, after Pope Francis condemned the government led by Ortega as a “gross dictatorship” and the president responded by severing ties with the Vatican. REUTERS