Brazilian president to ask for release of jailed Nicaraguan bishop
ROME • Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva said he will speak with Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega about releasing a jailed Nicaraguan bishop currently serving a 26-year prison sentence.
Speaking to reporters in Rome June 22, a day after meeting with Pope Francis, the Brazilian president, commonly referred to as Lula, said there is "no reason for the bishop to be impeded from carrying out his functions in the Church," and that he intends "to speak to Daniel Ortega with respect to liberating the bishop."
Bishop Rolando Álvarez was sentenced to more than 26 years in prison after he was convicted of treason and undermining national security for his position critical of the Ortega government.
"The Church has problems in Nicaragua because there are fathers, bishops that are jailed," Lula said in the news conference. "The only thing the Church wants is for Nicaragua to free them."
Although the president's comments came the day after his meeting with the Pope, it was not clear if his initiative to intervene in freeing Bishop Álvarez was coordinated with the Vatican.
"I want to try to help, if I can help," the president said. "These things are not always easy."
Lula said he and Pope Francis discussed war, both in Ukraine and more generally, and he said he agreed with the Pope's insistence on "laying out all means of negotiations."
The Pope, he said, has a vision of "creating consensus" among "a group of people that can build peace."
"In that aspect the Pope is someone extremely important," the president said. "Pope Francis is, today, the most important political authority that exists on planet Earth, not only because of what he represents but because of his posture and what he says."
In a video published by the Brazilian government following the audience, Pope Francis is heard saying, "We are in times of war, and peace is very fragile." The Pope then gifted Lula a bronze sculpture of a flower with the inscription "Peace is a weak flower."
The Vatican said Lula asked the Pope for a Rosary to give to his 80-year-old sister, which the Pope gave him right away.
During his 50-minute meeting with the Pope in a studio in the Vatican audience hall, Lula invited him to attend an October festival in Brazil's Amazon region to celebrate Our Lady of Nazareth, patroness of the Amazon.
While he said the invitation to the Amazon solicited a smile from the Pope Francis, Lula recalled the Pope's busy agenda and said he has many other countries to visit.
Pope Francis visited Brazil on his first international trip as pope in 2013 and has constantly demonstrated his concern for the Amazon region. He called a special Synod of Bishops for the Amazon in 2019, and in 2022 he created the first cardinal from Brazil's Amazon region: Cardinal Leonardo Ulrich Steiner.