ACI Prensa Staff, Apr 11, 2023 / 04:00 am (CNA).
Father Donaciano Alarcón, a Claretian missionary expelled from Nicaragua by the dictatorship, described how the authorities leveled unfounded accusations against him, took him to the border with Honduras, and abandoned him to his fate.
“They put me in a patrol car with two police officers and took me to the border. They made me cross and told me that I was now outside of the country and I couldn’t return anymore,” Alarcón told Radio Hogar of the Archdiocese of Panama.
Currently, the Panamanian priest is safe in the city of San Pedro Sula in Honduras, after being arrested by the regime’s police on April 3, Monday of Holy Week, at the end of the Chrism Mass.
The missionary worked in the Our Lady Help of Christians parish in the town of San José de Cusmapa in the Diocese of Estelí.
Father Ismael Montero Toyos, the provincial superior of the Claretians in Central America, told Radio Hogar that Alarcón “had been followed for days prior” and on April 3, taking advantage of the fact that “he had come from Mass and was not at his home, they arrested him and sent him to the border with Honduras.”
“Thank God we have people there we know and he slept well in San Marcos de Colón and traveled to San Pedro de Sula where we have another community of Claretian missionaries. He is physically fine, but the situation is a bit difficult because they took him away without prior notice,” Montero explained.
According to a report released April 7 by the NGO Blue and White Monitoring (the colors of the Nicaraguan flag) at least 15 Nicaraguans, mostly opponents of the regime and faithful Catholics, as well as a journalist, were arrested in Nicaragua by the police during Holy Week.
Alarcón said that the priests have “been in an uncomfortable situation because they can’t talk about anything.”
The Claretian priest assured that he has never talked “about politics” because he has no interest in it, but “I don’t hold back from talking about the issue of justice at Mass on Sundays.”
The Panamanian priest denied some accounts that say he was expelled for holding an outdoor procession or Stations of the Cross, expressions of popular piety prohibited by the Daniel Ortega dictatorship in February of this year.
“I didn’t do a procession because they were prohibited and I was the first to tell people that they would not take place,” he said.
Alarcón recounted that the police came to the rectory in the morning and warned him that he had to “remember the prescriptions” for Holy Week given by the regime.
“I gave them a program of where I would be during Holy Week. But in most of the churches where I was, they were outside the church,” he said.
The priest explained that a day before he was expelled, he did not celebrate Mass on Palm Sunday, but instead had traveled to another chapel. In his place, there was another priest who helped him with Holy Week and who was in charge of celebrating Mass.
“I went to go get an alb for the Chrism Mass (on Monday of Holy Week) in Estelí and then I received a video in which people looked upset. It seems that the priest who was there went outside to bless the palm branches at the doors of the church and the policeman told him that he couldn’t do that. When the priest went inside, people got upset and started saying things to the police,” he said.
“The next morning, when we went to the Chrism Mass, they stopped us abruptly and told me that they were going to expel me from the country. They said that they were going to put me in jail because I was inciting the people, that I was dedicating all the homilies to our Bishop Álvarez who is in prison and I was organizing the Stations of the Cross,” he continued.
However, Alarcón pointed out to the authorities that everything said against him was “a lie.” Nevertheless, the police accused him of inciting a “riot” in the church.
“It was all a lie, I just went looking for my alb and came back,” he stressed.
“The policeman told me that he was issuing a warning. But we went to the Chrism Mass, we were going to have lunch with my fellow priest and two other people, and they asked me for my papers and told me that I had to accompany them,” he recounted.
Then he said that they obliged him to get in a patrol car with two policemen and took him to the border.
“They made me cross and told me that I was now out of the country and couldn’t come back anymore. I didn’t know what to do, so I looked for a place to sit down. Some ladies saw me and I told them about it. They gave me a hug, I cried a little and they helped me get a phone to call my father and I was taken in by a family in San Marcos de Colón,” he said.
Alarcón noted that although the police didn’t use force, how they expelled him was “humiliating.”
According to a recent report prepared by lawyer and researcher Martha Patricia Molina, more than 3,000 Holy Week processions were prohibited by the dictatorship in Nicaragua this year.
Daniel Ortega, who heads the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN), a guerrilla group turned political party, has been in power since 2007.
Hand in hand with his wife and vice president, Rosario Murillo, Ortega exercises an iron-fisted dictatorship that penalizes all criticism and dissent.
The Nicaraguan dictator is intensely persecuting the Catholic Church because it has been leading the defense of human rights. One of Ortega’s most recent targets has been the bishop of Matagalpa, Rolando Álvarez, convicted by the regime of “treason to the fatherland” and sentenced to 26 years and four months in prison.
This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.
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I wonder what Pontiff Bergoglio thinks of the Ortega regime in Nicaragua. Likely we’ll never know.
These are very challenging and dangerous times. Thank you for reporting on this situation in Nicargua. It can be retold in many countries today. The powers who choose to perpetrate violence and injustice are many, connected and very well funded. I, too, had my homilies recorded by the Government when I was missioned in Sierra Leone while an chaplain to the university of Sierra Leone at Fourah Bay College. Later during the 10 years of was I was accidently wounded by child soldier, and later found out that I was on a list by the actual government army to be killed. Why? I was the national chaplain for youth and was actively teaching them nonviolent ways of conflict transformation and reconciliation. BUT let me tell you. Violence and intimidation will not have the last word.