WASHINGTON (CNS) — A Nicaraguan human rights organization released a video Aug. 4 showing police in riot gear outside the diocesan offices of one the country’s bishops, preventing him from leaving to celebrate Mass at the cathedral.
Because the incident took place on a Thursday and Catholics were likely expecting him to show up for exposition and adoration of the Eucharist, Bishop Rolando Alvarez of Matagalpa explained his absence in the video.
“I want to tell you that I’ve been wanting to head to the cathedral for holy hour, but obviously authorities haven’t given us permission,” Bishop Alvarez said in the video that shows the police blocking the door.
A second video shows him holding a monstrance with the Eucharist in a cordoned area of the street and a policeman preventing him from processing. The policeman whispered to him.
“You’re the ones who didn’t cooperate,” the bishop answered him, explaining that he was trying to do what is habitual for him on Thursdays, to expose the Eucharist and pray.
Bishop Alvarez coordinated a network of Catholic radio stations that the Nicaraguan government recently shut down because it was critical of the administration of President Daniel Ortega and his wife, Vice President Rosario Murillo.
Without naming the bishop, Murillo, on a state TV program, called him a “buffoon,” and a “manipulator of religious symbols.”
“There are images that seem to come out of the absurd, images that reflect a manipulation of symbols that must remain sacred to everyone,” said Murillo.
In the video, the bishop said police have not allowed him, along with six priests and six lay Catholics, to leave the diocesan offices.
“We will stay here without disrespecting the police,” the bishop said. Looking at the officers at his door, he said to them: “We’ve never disrespected you. These brothers, they have families, they are our friends.”
Then he blessed them.
But the bishop later appeared irritated when police would not allow him to pray, even in the street, as people began to gather near the besieged building.
“You’re the ones who didn’t allow in the priests, the choir, those who were going to transmit (eucharistic adoration),” he told them.
He blamed police for the chaos caused, for not allowing people to participate in the life of the church.
“Who are (the) ones responsible for the restlessness? Who has introduced this chaos?” the bishop asked.
“I was just preparing for adoration, for the Blessed Sacrament on this day of sanctification and protection for pastors,” he said referring to that day’s feast of St. John Vianney, patron of parish priests. “And look at what the police have done to the curia! So, obviously, people have come over there. I didn’t ask them to come, but the faithful people of God have come to pray because we believe in the power of prayer. We believe in the power of the Blessed Sacrament. We believe that Christ is alive!”