On Aug. 19, the bishop of Matagalpa, Nicaragua, Bishop Monsignor Rolando Alvarez, was kidnapped along with other priests. These events mark the increased persecution of the Catholic Church and its faithful in Nicaragua by the government of President Daniel Ortega. The crisis has been deeply felt by Nicaraguans throughout the world, including the Nicaraguan community here in our Diocese. Some of them have shared with the BYTE their experiences and perspectives on the current crisis.
“They are destroying the hearts of every Nicaraguan living abroad because you see that your country is going into a bottomless abyss where dreams are being destroyed,” said Jeanet Garcia, a parishioner of St. John XXIII in Fontana who emigrated from Nicaragua in 1994. “Many are escaping the country and dying on the way and many women are being abused.”
“[It is] time to be more involved with this unequal struggle, attending the marches that are now being planned so that all the hostages, and the people in general in Nicaragua, do not feel alone,” said Ligia Rizzo, also a parishioner of St. John XXIII.
Father Eliezer Lopez, S.T., originally from Ometepe Island, Department of Rivas in southern Nicaragua and now serving at Our Lady of Soledad in Coachella and the Valley Missionary Program, said that the sufferings experienced by any part of the Church affect the whole Church. “The local church of San Bernardino can join in proclaiming the Truth of the Gospel, being on the side of those who suffer these terrible persecutions and abuses against their faith,” said Fr. Lopez.
“As a local church, it is time to not be indifferent to the needs of the migrants coming from Nicaragua and so many other countries. The local church must accompany the Nicaraguan community present, opening spaces for prayer, listening and accompaniment,” he said.
Fr. Lopez shared some words of encouragement with the Nicaraguan community in our Diocese. “Nicaraguan brothers and sisters, our beloved country is going through terrible social, political and economic crises and right now the persecution, outrages and abuses against the Catholic Church. We must not be intimidated or doubt; it is time to remain united to Christ our hope; it is time to persevere in the pursuit of the common good; it is a time for witnessing the faith even in dramatic circumstances.
“Let us remember that we belong to a Church of martyrs and courageous saints who always trusted in the power of Christ,” he said.
Bishop Alberto Rojas also offered a message of solidarity to the Nicaraguan community. You can read his message below.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
As Bishop and shepherd of this Diocese, I want to express my solidarity with the people of Nicaragua given the troublesome news that we have heard all over the world, regarding the situation that the Catholic faithful throughout Nicaragua now face. We know that the National Police Force of Nicaragua entered the Bishop’s residence in Matagalpa and took by force the Diocesan Bishop Monsignor Rolando Alvarez along with those who were with him.
Our Diocese of San Bernardino has a community of Nicaraguan Catholics who are devoted to the Immaculate Conception of Mary. We have also welcomed members of the clergy from Nicaragua at different times and we have joined with them and their people to celebrate together our shared love for Our Lady.
I join with Pope Francis, who has interceded for an “open and sincere dialogue between the government and the people to establish a foundation for a respectful and peaceful coexistence.” We are all part of the Body of Christ and I pray that we join in prayer for this member of our church who suffers persecution and violence.
I am united in prayer with our brothers and sisters from Nicaragua and their pastors in these difficult moments to renew our hope in the promises of the Gospel.
In the love and peace of Christ,
Bishop Alberto Rojas