The news of Nicaraguan Bishop Rolando Álvarez's recent 26-year prison sentence has caused great sadness in Rome.
The news coming from Nicaragua has saddened me greatly, and I cannot fail to mention my concern for the Bishop of Matagalpa, Rolando Álvarez, whom I love so much.
In May of last year, Bishop Álvarez accused the Ortega government of persecuting the Catholic Church.
BP. ROLANDO ÁLVAREZ
Diocese of Matagalpa and Estelí, Nicaragua
The police broke into my family's private circle. They came into my family's private home, putting my family's safety at risk.
But he is not the only bishop to face persecution. The Bishop of Shanghai, Tadeo Ma Daqin, has been imprisoned since 2012 in the Chinese seminary of Sheshan. His crime—publicly distancing himself from the Chinese patriotic Church.
In November 2022, Cardinal Joseph Zen, Bishop emeritus of Hong Kong paid a fine of $500 for allegedly giving funds to support pro-democracy protests. In 2019, he had been arrested and then released on bail.
Another historic case was that of Vietnamese Cardinal François-Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan, who is now in the process of beatification. In 1975, two days after Pope Paul VI appointed the Cardinal Archbishop of Saigon, the country's communist regime accused him of conspiracy and imprisoned him. He spent 13 years in prison, 9 of them in total isolation.
In that time, he wrote the book, Five Loaves and Two Fish, about his faith experience in prison. The Cardinal always hung his cross from a chain he secretly made in prison.
CARD. FRANÇOIS-XAVIER VAN THUAN
Know that I made this chain with pieces of prison wire that the jailers cut for me. They brought a few tweezers for trimming, and together we constructed the chain in four hours.
Around the same time, Blessed Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski was imprisoned in communist Poland. Both Pope John Paul II and Pope Francis have praised the Polish Cardinal's faith.
Speaking to Cardinal Wyszyński, Saint John Paul II made a historic statement: “There would not be a Polish Pope on the Seat of Peter, if it were not for your faith, which was not shaken through prison and suffering, your heroic hope, and your trust in the Mother of the Church until the end.”
While their stories differ, each man was willing to pay any price to spread the Gospel where freedom had been denied.