Skip to content

Religious freedom | Bishop Rolando Álvarez: Nicaragua

Bishop Álvarez released from prison by Nicaraguan government


Topic | Religious Freedom

Bishop Álvarez was convicted by the Nicaraguan government for preaching on themes of God-given human dignity and justice, in which he denounced the human rights violations perpetrated by the regime against the Catholic Church and the Nicaraguan people. He was sentenced to 26 years in prison for these sham charges. On 14 January 2024, it was announced that he had been released and exiled to the Vatican after having been detained for over 500 days (including 11 months in prison).

“We celebrate and welcome the release of bishop Álvarez and other members of the Nicaraguan clergy. Álvarez should have never been harassed and unjustly imprisoned for simply fulfilling his duties as a Catholic bishop in the first place. No one should be punished or prosecuted for expressing their faith. ADF International is privileged to have supported the pursuit of justice for the bishop and we pray now for his recovery from this ordeal as well as the difficult situation that remains in Nicaragua,” – Kristina Hjelkrem

His release happened amidst mounting international pressure as ADF International petitioned the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and advocated before the US Congress on the bishop’s behalf, among other international voices demanding justice.

“For simply fulfilling his duties as a bishop and preaching the teachings of Christ and the Catholic Church, Bishop Álvarez has been wrongfully convicted and sentenced to 26 years in prison. This is a clear violation of not only his human right to freedom of expression, but also to profess his faith and share his beliefs as a pastor. No one should be persecuted or imprisoned for sharing their faith”​

Case Summary

The systematic persecution of Bishop Álvarez by Nicaraguan authorities started on 4 August 2022, when police agents prevented him from leaving his residence, the Episcopal Curia of Matagalpa, to celebrate Mass at a nearby cathedral. The Bishop, along with seminarians, priests, and a cameraman, was forcibly detained by police in the diocesan offices for 15 days.

Later, on 19 August 2022, police forcibly entered the residence, and arbitrarily arrested Bishop Álvarez and seven other members of the Catholic Church without a warrant. Bishop Álvarez then was placed under house arrest by authorities.

Following the arrest, Nicaraguan authorities opened a criminal investigation into the Bishop for the crimes of “undermining national integrity” and “propagation of false news through information and communication technologies”. Bishop Álvarez later was found guilty of these crimes, along with “aggravated obstruction of functions” and “disobedience of contempt for authority”.

The Bishop’s charges were based on sermons that he had delivered from the pulpit as a result of what he considered a religious duty to preach on human rights violations. He was convicted after a trial that he did not know was taking place, and at which he, therefore, could not testify nor cross-examine witnesses.

Bishop Álvarez was stripped of his citizenship according to a problematic national law and sentenced to 26 years and four months in prison, in addition to being ordered to pay 800 days’ worth of fines, amounting to almost $5000 USD.

An appeal to the Managua Court of Appeals against the conviction resulting from the sham trial was refused on procedural grounds for failing to challenge specific parts of the judgment, which the court had not provided. Further, the Bishop initially was denied his lawyer of choice, and his legal representation since has been refused basic information about his case. 

With no further effective legal recourse available to him in Nicaragua, ADF International filed a petition on Bishop Álvarez’s behalf with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights on 12 September 2023.  

Following the petition, ADF International submitted a statement before the US Congress regarding legal abuses during his sham conviction and greater human rights violations of his case. 

In January 2024, the Nicaraguan government announced the release of two bishops, fifteen priests, and two seminarians to the Holy See. Among them was Bishop Álvarez. At the current time, he is unable to return to Nicaragua and freely exercise his religious freedom rights in his country.


Support Religious Freedom

Your gift can support fundamental freedoms for Bishop Álvarez and others like him across the world. Thank you for your generosity.

Stay Informed

Get involved! Sign up to receive updates:

"*" indicates required fields

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.