St. John Paul II and Father Rolando Alvarez on the Pope's second trip to Nicaragua

St. John Paul II and Father Rolando Alvarez on the Pope's second trip to Nicaragua

On February 7, 1996, on his second trip to Nicaragua, Pope St. John Paul II referred to his visit in 1983 as a "great dark night" 

I remember the celebration thirteen years ago; it took place in darkness, on a great dark night," the pilgrim pope said at the Mass he celebrated in Managua with the country's families. 

In the 1996 Mass, the Polish pope elevated to the rank of Basilica the temple of the Immaculate Conception of El Viejo, where Nicaraguans venerate "the Immaculate Conception" so that "Mary of Nicaragua may always be Mary."

Photograph of Pope John Paul II celebrating Mass in the Plaza de la Fe in Nicaragua.

The story of Padre Rolando Álvarez with the visit of St. John Paul II

Father Rolando Álvarez was just 17 years old when JPII visited on March 4th, 1983.  He participated in the processions and the offerings of that day. He recounted that Sandinista mobs prevented young people from the parishes from going to Mass.

He said, “We made our first stop at the Cristo Rey school because the atmosphere was dark and dangerous. We began to hear shouts and slogans as we approached the Papal Mass which made us stop. There were mobs, although they didn't tell us 'we are the Sandinistas,' but they were."Father Alvarez said they only managed to reach the square around 10:30 in the morning when most of the place was occupied by Sandinistas with red and black flags.In those people, said Father. 

Álvarez, “no devotion was appreciated. That is the historical fact, the objective data”.The priest also recalled that at Mass “there were people who took the microphones, but not those who were in sight. It was seen that there were microphones and devices that were linked to the speakers and that they were hidden. These people were interfering in the audio” of the Pope during the Sacrifice of the Mass.

“You will know them by their fruits” 

The priest then recalled the importance of reconciliation in Nicaragua without forgetting the historical memory."Christians have to forgive, you cannot live with a lack of forgiveness, but forgiveness does not erase historical memory, it means disidentifying because, for example, you and I are also what we were, for better or for worse."


Photograph of Father Rolando Alvarez during his priestly ordination

“By their fruits, you will know them,” he added.

Fr. Álvarez also recalled some aspects of the visit of Pope John Paul II in 1996."The people took to the streets to cry, to ask the Pope for forgiveness in the name of Nicaragua, although the faithful people were not the ones who had committed that," said the priest, referring to the Sandinista attacks.

"When I say faithful people I am talking about many people who had participated in 1983, committing this type of disrespect for the Eucharist in the first place, because what hurt the Pope the most was the disrespect for Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament," he recalled.

The new Bishop of Matagalpa finally said that Saint John Paul II "transmitted to us palpably the presence of God and that causes an emotion and a commotion in the heart, which marks one for life."

This text appeared in the newspapers the day after the visit of Pope John Paul II saying: "John Paul remembered the dark Sandinista night."


What happened with Bishop Rolando?

Bishop David J. Malloy of Rockford, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on International Justice and Peace, issued the following statement regarding the ongoing violations of religious freedom in Nicaragua:

“As we continue to celebrate the joy of Christ’s resurrection during this Easter season, I reaffirm our unwavering solidarity with the bishops, priests, faithful, and all men and women of good will in Nicaragua, who are suffering an intensification of the Nicaraguan Government’s religious persecution. In addition to a ban on traditional Holy Week outdoor celebrations and processions, the faithful have endured consistent police harassment in churches throughout Nicaragua, confiscation of property, as well as the expulsion from the country of two women religious and a priest, the latter for calling for the release of Bishop Rolando Alvarez, who languishes in prison after being unjustly sentenced to twenty-six years in prison and stripped of his citizenship in February.

Read more in the second third of Juan Pablo's third visit to Nicaragua, and Share this message with a friend to subscribe and receive our news in your email through the following link:

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