A Catholic bishop detained in his residence by authorities over his criticism of Nicaragua President Daniel Ortega assured supporters on Thursday that he is well and safe.
Bishop Rolando Alvarez, alongside several priests and lay people, has been holed up at home in Managua for a week after riot police prevented him from leaving to say Mass.
He and the Catholic Church have been accused of inciting violence to destabilize the country.
“Thanks to God we are in good health, living in community… we are in the hands of God,” said Bishop Alvarez in a Mass broadcast on Facebook.
It was the first time Bishop Alvarez had been heard from in five days, despite having initially promised to broadcast mass daily.
Last week police said in a statement that the Church and Bishop Alvarez were “trying to organize violent groups and inciting them to carry out acts of hatred against” the government, adding that an investigation had been opened.
Bishop Alvarez, 55, has described his detention as “house arrest.”
“We have inner strength, with peace, serenity in our hearts, with a joy of conscience that can only come from God,” said Bishop Alvarez.
He said those detained were treating their house arrest as “a spiritual retreat.”
The incident is the latest in a rapidly worsening standoff between civil society and a government accused of growing authoritarianism.
The Catholic Church in Nicaragua has been under increasing government pressure since opposition protests in 2018 were met with repression that resulted in 355 deaths, according to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.
Ortega, who maintains the protests were part of a Washington-backed opposition plot to unseat him, has accused bishops of complicity and said protesters used church buildings as “barracks.”
Churches sheltered protesters who were injured or went into hiding.
Bishop Alvarez’s detention came after he denounced authorities for closing several radio stations and Catholic news channels.