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Nicaragua releases 12 Catholic priests and sends them to Rome, following agreement with the Vatican

FILE - A poster featuring Bishop Rolando Alvarez and Pope Francis hangs inside the Cathedral in Matagalpa, Nicaragua, Aug. 19, 2022. Nicaragua has released and sent 12 Roman Catholic priests jailed on a variety of charges to Rome following an agreement reached with the Vatican, the Nicaraguan government said in a statement late Wednesday, Oct. 18, 2023. Bishop 脕濒惫补谤别锄 was not among the names of the priests released. (AP Photo/Inti Ocon, File)

FILE - A poster featuring Bishop Rolando Alvarez and Pope Francis hangs inside the Cathedral in Matagalpa, Nicaragua, Aug. 19, 2022. Nicaragua has released and sent 12 Roman Catholic priests jailed on a variety of charges to Rome following an agreement reached with the Vatican, the Nicaraguan government said in a statement late Wednesday, Oct. 18, 2023. Bishop 脕濒惫补谤别锄 was not among the names of the priests released. (AP Photo/Inti Ocon, File)

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MEXICO CITY (AP) 鈥 Nicaragua has released 12 Roman Catholic priests jailed on a variety of charges and sent them to Rome following an agreement reached with the Vatican, the Nicaraguan government said in a statement late Wednesday.

The government of President Daniel Ortega said that the priests were flown to Rome Wednesday afternoon following productive talks with the Vatican. Cardinal Leopoldo Brenes, the church鈥檚 top figure in Nicaragua, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Vatican confirmed Thursday that the Holy See had been asked to receive the 12 priests who had been recently released. It said they would be taken in and housed in various structures belonging to the diocese of Rome.

The Nicaraguan government said the deal showed 鈥渢he permanent will and commitment to find solutions.鈥

Bishop Rolando 脕濒惫补谤别锄 was not among the names of the priests listed. 脕濒惫补谤别锄 was convicted of conspiracy and sentenced in February to 26 years in prison shortly after Ortega鈥檚 government sent 222 prisoners to the United States in a deal brokered by the U.S. government.

脕濒惫补谤别锄 had refused to get on that flight. Nicaragua鈥檚 government later stripped those prisoners of their citizenship.

Ortega鈥檚 government has aggressively pursued the Catholic church in recent years. Ortega has maintained that the church aided popular protests against his administration in April 2018 that he considered an attempted coup.