Pope voices his concern for imprisoned Nicaraguan bishop

VATICAN CITY, Feb 12 (Reuters) - Pope Francis on Sunday spoke of his concern over the imprisonment of Nicaraguan Bishop Rolando Alvarez, who was sentenced to more than 26 years in prison in the Latin American country.

The Pope's comments about Alvarez, who is a vocal critic of Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, were made in his weekly blessing to pilgrims and tourists in St. Peter's Square.

Ortega has accused Catholic leaders of attempting to overthrow him after protests that killed about 300 people in 2018. Since then, the government of the former Cold War-era Marxist rebel has expelled Catholic nuns and missionaries.

Alvarez was convicted on Friday of treason, undermining national integrity and spreading false news, among other charges.

The previous day Alvarez was included in a surprise release of 200 political prisoners by Ortega's government but would not board the plane to the United States.

"The news from Nicaragua has grieved me not a little and I cannot help but remember with concern the Bishop of Matagalpa, Monsignor Rolando Alvarez, whom I love so much and who has been sentenced to 26 years in prison, and also the people who have been taken to the United States," Pope Francis said.

Reporting by Giselda Vagnoni Editing by David Goodman

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