By Inés San Martín
ROME (Crux) — Miami’s archbishop celebrated Mass Monday for the freedom of a Nicaraguan bishop arbitrarily arrested last Friday, following two weeks of detention in the curia.
“Today we ask not for the release of the little shepherds, but for the release of a pastor, Msgr. Rolando Alvarez, Bishop of Matagalpa,” said Archbishop Thomas Wenski. “With courage, he stands firm in telling the truth of what he sees. He is not afraid, as the little shepherds were not afraid.”
Archbishop Wenski’s reference was to the story of Fatima and three young shepherds, according to tradition, chosen by the Mother of God to give her message as Our Lady of Peace. As Archbishop Wenski noted, on Aug. 13, the government of Nicaragua banned a procession that displayed a replica of the Fatima image.
According to the tradition, as the three shepherds were walking to a site where the Virgin reportedly appeared they were arrested by the mayor, who threatened them with punishments if they didn’t deny what they had seen, and called them liars.
Instead of being afraid of the mayor, Archbishop Wenski said in his homily, the seers remained steadfast in the truth, and, by the end of the day, they were freed and it was the mayor and those with him who were afraid. The same, he said, will happen in Nicaragua.
“The ones who will be afraid are the shepherd’s executioners. And as that mayor and his henchmen failed, they will fail too,” Archbishop Wenski said.
In a contemporary society where dignity and rights are ever more discarded, the Archbishop of Miami said, “as we see happening in Nicaragua,” it is important to remember that “love is stronger than hatred.”
Archbishop Wenski’s words came during a Mass for peace in Nicaragua and the release of Bishop Alvarez on the feast of the Queenship of Mary in Miami’s Church of St. Michael the Archangel. The celebration was transmitted live on YouTube and social media and was concelebrated by Bishop Silvio Baez, an auxiliary of Managua forced into exile in 2019 following a series of death threats against himself and his family.
Despite a police ban, some 2,000 people gathered Aug. 13 on the grounds of the Cathedral of Managua to receive the venerated image of Our Lady of Fatima, Archbishop Wenski said.
“In reference to the crisis with the government, Cardinal Leopoldo Brenes, Archbishop of Managua, said in his homily: ‘We gather with great joy, but also with great sadness, due to the situation experienced in our parishes’,” Archbishop Wenski said. “But let us not tire of praying, even when we have the impression that God does not hear us.’ Quoting Pope Francis, Cardinal Brenes said, ‘Forgive them Lord, for they know not what they do.’”
“We remember the kidnapping of the little shepherds of Fatima, and that of a pastor, and the harassment of so many of the faithful, seminarians and priests,” said the Archbishop of Miami. “This reminds us that faith, which seems weak, is the true strength of the world. Love is stronger than hatred.”
Reflecting on the first reading of yesterday, from the Book of the Apocalypse, which tells the story of a woman who fights a dragon, Archbishop Wenski said it refers to more than the war waged by the Roman Empire against the first Christian communities.
“Next to the power of the Roman government, the early Church must have seemed like a helpless woman, with no chance of survival, let alone victory,” he said. “But this story refers to the epic battle between good and evil, which God’s people are waging as we traverse this valley of tears.”
He said that often throughout history, the power of evil and hatred seemed far stronger than the power of good and love and that this “was certainly the case during much of the 20th century: World War I, the Great Depression, World War II, the Cold War, and serial holocausts: Armenians, Jews, Cambodians, and of course, the unborn murdered through abortion.”
Yet, Archbishop Wenski said, in Fatima the Virgin reminded the world that God has the last word in the “epic battle between good and evil. God will win, and we will share in that victory if we listen to Fatima’s message of peace, which is found in and through repentance.”
Quoting Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, the prelate said, “the dragon exists in new and different forms … In the form of materialistic ideologies that tell us that it is absurd to think of God, it is absurd to observe God’s commandments. Also today it seems impossible to imagine a God who became man as the true sovereign of the world. And even if that dragon, in his new incarnations, seems to be invincible, it remains true today that God is stronger than the dragon, and that love conquers selfishness.”
However, Archbishop Wenski said, in Mary’s son, the dragon is defeated, and as the Virgin said in Fatima, the world has a weapon that can be used against the dragon of the apocalypse, “a simple but powerful weapon for spiritual warfare, part of our daily life in this valley of tears: the holy rosary. It is not a weapon of violence or elimination, but of peace and healing.”