(LifeSiteNews) — A Nicaraguan news outlet posted a video of Bishop Rolando Álvarez from last Saturday showing him having a meal with two of his siblings and offering comments on how he is doing.
In the video, the bishop thanks Our Lady for the visit of his siblings on the feast of her Annunciation and says he is being treated in a dignified way during his imprisonment.
El 19 Digital, a Nicaraguan news agency that supports the Ortega regime, posted the video and interview with Bishop Álvarez on March 25 after human rights activist Bianca Jagger, in a hearing before the U.S. Congress, publicly and forcefully demanded that the Nicaraguan government provide to the international community proof of life for the bishop. No one had seen Álvarez in person since his imprisonment in February after a 26-year prison sentence on specious charges of being a traitor to the country for supporting pro-democracy protesters.
The sentence was handed down the day after the bishop had refused to leave the country with 222 other political refugees, who were released from prison, deported to the U.S., and then stripped of their nationality and property. Bishop Álvarez refused to abandon either the Church in Nicaragua or the 37 political prisoners whom Ortega did not release.
The bishop is serving his sentence in the notoriously harsh prison of La Modelo, where he was allowed a visit on Saturday from his brother and sister. The bishop appeared noticeably healthier than during previous appearances in court, and in his interview smiled and joked happily, thanking God and Our Lady many times.
Asked how he was doing, Álvarez responded, “Thanks be to God, I am well, with much inner strength with much peace in the Lord and in the Most Holy Virgin.”
“The people who are with you are members of your family?”
“Yes, they are my siblings … some of my siblings.”
“And how has this family meeting been?”
“Thanks be to God, well. Thanks be to the Lord, well. We have talked, had very tasty food here with a little meal that our friends from the penitentiary system graciously and kindly provided us.”
Asked if he could confirm that he was receiving a dignified treatment, the bishop said, “Yes, yes, thanks be to God, and I thank the competent authorities and those of the penitentiary system.”
With good humor and smiling, despite the difficulty of the persecution he is suffering, he added, “Do I look good, healthy, and how does my face look?”
Speaking of the Annunciation, Álvarez thanked Our Lady for being able to see his brother and sister on her feast day.
“I would like to add a special comment. I would like to thank the Blessed Virgin, because today is the day of the Annunciation to the true mother so that with her yes, the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us for our salvation and redemption, because on her day of her, my siblings have been able to come to see me,” he said.
“Our mother always protects us and covers us all with the same motherly love,” Álvarez concluded, visibly showing a deep joy at being able to speak of Our Lady even from prison. The video offered his first public words since his conviction.
In a detailed report released March 2, the U.N.-established Group of Human Rights Experts on Nicaragua (GHREN) declared that the country’s government has committed and continues to commit “crimes against humanity” by perpetrating acts of torture, extrajudicial executions, arbitrary detention, deportation, rape, sexual violence, and suppression of political, social, and religious freedoms.
U.S. Rep. Chris Smith has continued to demand the immediate release of Bishop Álvarez and has called on the White House and the Vatican to exert international pressure on the Ortega regime for the bishop’s release. Saturday’s video, and the February release of 200 political prisoners, may be evidence that Ortega’s government is not beyond the influence of outside pressure to relent in its systematic attack against the Church and its political opponents.