The government of President Daniel Ortega banned the traditional public processions of the Way of the Cross during the Lenten season, in Nicaragua.
According to the Nicaraguan newspaper La Prensa, Father Winder Morales from Granada Diocese said, “The Stations of the Cross that we traditionally do on Fridays of Lent can only make its way around the cathedral.”
During Lent and Good Friday, the ritual will take place within churches rather than in public places.
Ortega's rage followed Pope Francis' plea for Nicaragua on February 12.
The Pope prayed for Bishop Álvarez, “for those who have been deported to the United States, and for all those who suffer in the beloved nation of Nicaragua” during the Angelus prayer, joining the global outpouring of support for the Church in Nicaragua.
In his speech to the nation at the 89th anniversary of Augusto C. Sandino's death on February 21, Ortega accused the papacy supported the Italian dictator Mussolini and that the Vatican was a "mafia organization."
“I don't believe in popes or kings: who chooses the Pope? If we want to talk about democracy, the people should first elect priests and the bishops”, and “even the Pope” should be “elected by direct vote and not by the organized mafia in the Vatican," Ortega added.
Ortega did not mention the 222 exiles or Bishop Álvarez's 26-year sentence in his speech.
The Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights (Cenidh) recently demanded the prelate's immediate freedom, calling him "unjustly detained". Since his detention in La Modelo security jail, there have been no word or family visits, the group said. The organization said that Bishop Álvarez's life is in danger.
The US Bishops joined Pope Francis in supporting the Nicaraguan Catholic Church.
Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio, president of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), praised the US Catholic community for welcoming Nicaraguan exiles last week.
Archbishop Broglio urged the US government and other allies to "continue to pursue the release of Bishop Álvarez and the restoration of human rights in Nicaragua."
Bishop Rolando Álvarez of Matagalpa was sentenced to 26 years of imprisonment on February 10 and 222 political opponents were deported to the US including five priests, a deacon, and two seminarians on February 9.
The government also deported the Apostolic Nuncio to Nicaragua, the Polish Archbishop Waldemar Stanislaw Sommertag and 18 Missionaries of Charity in 2022. - With inputs from Vatican News
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