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Bishop under house arrest ‘physically weak but strong in spirits’ as he is moved into custody

by Kelly Valencia

A Nicaraguan bishop who has been under house arrest since the beginning of the month for criticising the country’s government has been taken into custody.

On Friday, heavily armed police forces entered the church compound where Fr Rolando Lopez and eight other clergy had been holed up for two weeks.

Police took them to the capital, Managua where Fr Rolando was placed under house arrest while the other eight church leaders were held on police premises.

Earlier this month, Nicaraguan authorities launched an investigation into Fr Rolando for opposing the government’s decision to close six Catholic radio stations.

Since then, the leader of the Catholic dioceses of Matagalpa was prevented from leaving his clerical residency after police forces cordoned off the area. The clergy had to ration food as deliveries were forbidden.

Fr Rolando is accused of “organizing violent groups and inciting them to carry out acts of hate against the population … with the aim of destabilising the Nicaraguan state”.

Now Nicaraguan authorities have announced he will remain under house arrest until the investigation into his alleged crimes is concluded.

The leader of the Nicaraguan Catholic Conference of Bishops, Fr Leopoldo Brenes Solorzano said he had visited Fr Rolando and was “physically weak but strong in spirits and trusting in the Lord”.

The relationship between the Catholic Church and the government has come under pressure after the harsh crackdown on protests in 2018 when the Church acted as a mediator between the government and protesters.

Government critics fear Fr Roland will be forced into exile, like the former bishop of Managua, Silvio José Báez Ortega. He left the country in 2019 following a series of death threats.

Nicaraguans in neighbouring Costa Rica held a protest outside the Metropolitan Cathedral in San Jose against the detention of Fr Rolando Alvarez.

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