EspañolThe Venezuelan Episcopal Conference (CEV), which represents all bishops and archbishops of the Catholic Church in Venezuela, released a strong-worded statement condemning President Nicolás Maduro’s “totalitarian project” that has plunged the country into major crisis.
Furthermore, they called on the government to allow the recall referendum on Maduro to take place his year, allow the entry of foreign humanitarian aid such as medicine, and free the country’s political prisoners.
- Read More: Venezuela: Maduro Hands over Power to the Army
- Read More: Argentina President Blasts Maduro for Violating “All Human Rights”
We reproduce the document, originally released in Spanish on July 12 and read throughout Catholic churches in Venezuela on July 15’s Sunday mass, in its entirety:
EXHORTATION OF THE VENEZUELAN EPISCOPAL CONFERENCE
106th ORDINARY ASSEMBLY
“The Lord loves those who pursue righteousness” (Proverbs 15:9)
1) The Archbishops and Bishops of Venezuela, gathered at the 106th Ordinary Assembly, want to share with the Venezuelan people our concerns and express our hope that through reconciliation and dialogue we will find solutions to the current crisis.
2) We Venezuelans are going through a delicate situation in the moral, economic, political, and social spheres. The quality of life has decreased dramatically. The scarcity and high cost of food, medicines, and hospital supplies are taking us to the brink of a food and health emergency crisis, with unpredictable social consequences. In public life, growing insecurity, impunity and military repression are on the rise.
3) The warmongering and aggressive rhetoric of officials makes everyday life more difficult. The constant preaching of hatred and the criminalization and punishment of dissent negatively impacts families and social bonds. Faced with this situation, the growing military power is a threat to social harmony and peace.
4) The rise of crime and impunity hinders everyday life and creates in both small and large cities de facto curfews. A few days ago, in Mérida, a group of underage seminarians who stood among a group of bystanders were attacked. They were beaten and and stripped naked, violating their rights to dignity and respect, and no public authority came to their rescue. The recent riots in Cumaná and Tucupita, as well as the attempts of looting and road blocks in different parts of the country, are proof of the growing social unrest.
5) The rule of law, enshrined in the second paragraph of the Constitution, has been weakened. We practically live under the arbitrariness of public officials and employees, who tend to become censors of life, thought, and action of citizens. Such attitudes and actions are unacceptable. The cultural identity of Venezuelans is reduced and even lost when the only thing that matters is whether one adheres to the ruling political movement.
6) Democracy in Venezuela is broken, and the executive and the other powers that have the responsibility to hear and come to an agreement with all sectors are not doing enough to rebuild it. Even though they seem difficult, the paths that we must choose continue to be those of a sincere and constructive dialogue and politics as the pursuit of the common good. There can be no dialogue if one does not first acknowledge the other’s existence and equal rights. Ignoring or dismissing the other as a valid interlocutor shuts down any possibilities to overcome the conflict.
7) The moral crisis is greater than the economic and political crisis, because it affects the behavior of the entire population. Truth loses to lie, transparency to corruption, dialogue to intolerance, and coexistence to anarchy. Corruption in the state has increased and moral decay has conquered vast sectors of society and many members of private, public, military, and civilian institutions. One example of this moral degradation is the speculation with the resales of basic products, popularly known as “bachaqueo.”
8) Those who ignore the legitimate authority of the Venezuelan Congress only undermine themselves, because they go against the sovereignty of the people who elected the legislators. The division, autonomy, and collaboration among state powers is a fundamental democratic principle.
9) Such is the helplessness of citizens before crime that cases of angry mobs taking justice into their own hands are growing, with immoral and deplorable collective lynching. Violence, in any of its forms, is the solution to the country’s problems. As Pope John Paull II told us: “Social justice cannot be attained by violence. Violence kills what it intends to create.”
10) The root of the problems lies in the totalitarian, impoverishing, rent-seeking, and centralizing political project that the government insists on maintaining.
11) The National Electoral Council has a duty to oversee the recall referendum so that it is carried out this year. It’s a democratic procedure, a political right established in the Constitution. Blocking or delaying the referendum with multiple obstacles is absurd, since it jeopardizes the country’s political and social stability, with critical consequences for individuals, institutions, and property.
12) The executive must urgently allow the entry of medicines into the country, given the severe shortages. The Church offers the services and infrastructure of Caritas and other church bodies, open to collaborate with other religious and private institutions, to help receive and distribute the medicine. This won’t be a definitive solution, but it is a significant aid. Charity drives us to act like compassionate Samaritans, ready to heal the wounded on our path (Cf. Leviticus 10, 25-37).
13) The Colombia-Venezuela border needs to be open permanently. Having allowed its opening last Sunday, July 10, made it possible for many brothers to find food, medicines, and other basic supplies. The crossing of thousands of citizens to the neighbor country is clear evidence of the crisis.
14) The number of Venezuelan citizens detained in prisons and other police buildings, unfairly deprived of their freedom for political reasons, is growing. The vast majority of prisoners are living in inhumane conditions and are not enjoying the right to due process. These individuals must be released if innocent or at least undergo trial in freedom, as established in the Criminal Procedure Code.
“HOPE DOES NOT PUT US TO SHAME” (Romans 5-8)
15) The concerns and hopes of the Venezuelan people are shared by several national and international organizations. The government must not, adducing sovereignty and independence, declare them illegitimate or blame those who ask these organizations for help, since we live in a globalized and interconnected world. Neither human rights nor justice know borders. Let us not let them steal our hope that makes the impossible seem possible with the help of God. (Cf. Leviticus 1, 37).
16) In the name of Jesus, who tells us to “love one another”(Jn. 13, 34), we call upon the authorities stop the deterioration of the life of Venezuelans, whatever their political preference may be, and stop the current spiral of violence, hatred, and death. Driven solely by goodness and peace for all Venezuelans, we reiterate our offer to facilitate the dialogue between opponents and to promote understanding in finding effective solutions.
17) We strongly believe that Jesus Christ, the Lord of history, is with us all. As children of the same Father and brothers of each other, we are committed to forging union and peace. We joyfully invite all believers, men and women of good will, to join us on August 2, the day of fasting and prayer convened by Pope Francis in Asís, as a special occasion to call for peace and reconciliation among Venezuelans. We invite everyone to recite the Prayer for Venezuela and to read this exhortation in Sunday mass. We beg Our Father to bestow upon our people his mercy and consolation more abundantly this year. We place these proposals, which express the feelings and desires of the vast majority of Venezuelans, in the motherly hands of Our Lady of Coromoto.
With our blessing,
The Bishops and Archbishops of Venezuela
Caracas, July 12, 2016