The bishops of Venezuela have issued a New Year message addressing the situation there. The message dated January 10 was headed ‘Carta Fraterna de los Obispos de Venezuela’ (Fraternal Letter of the Bishops of Venezuela). It was sent to the Antilles Episcopal Conference of Caribbean bishops and other bishops’ conferences. Following is an edited version of the translated document.
At the beginning of this year 2020, as a result of the prayer and reflection that accompany and strengthen our commitment to the people to which we belong and of which we are shepherds, driven by the conscience of duty as prophets that make the cry of our People, we address this fraternal letter to all the sister Churches of America and the world, to the men and women of good will and to all the brothers of Venezuela who live and fight within the country or have gone to other nations as emigrants.
In communion with the Holy Father, who has repeatedly said that: “in the voice of the Venezuelan bishops is the voice of the Pope”, we denounce the crisis situation that has hit our nation and that, far from being overcome, gets worse.
It is a social, economic and political crisis that has become a morally unacceptable “humanitarian emergency” characterised by the contempt for human dignity, because it violates the fundamental right to life, education, health, integrity and development.
To our Venezuelan brothers
As pastors, we are people with you and that is why we share your joys, hopes, anguishes and difficulties. We want to comfort the afflicted, protect the weak and support the building of a just, free and fraternal society. You can count on the Church to continue supporting everyone, particularly those who are starving, desolate, medically neglected, jailed for political reasons, persecuted and in the mistreatment of their dignity.
Inspired by the principles of the gospel and the Social Doctrine of the Church, we reaffirm that the people, with their diverse expressions of social and cultural life, are the true subject and protagonist of the change required in Venezuela, as well as the development for routing the country towards better living conditions. This implies acting with an eye on the horizon of fundamental principles and values, without being manipulated by those who want to buy their conscience with gifts or with false promises and expectations. It also entails the union of efforts, capable of breaking the particular interests of individuals and groups, and the emergence of a new political and social leadership to guide and accompany everyone towards a future of dignification, justice and freedom.
The last events of running over the National Assembly lead us to reaffirm what we expressed on July 12, 2019 in the exhortation addressed to the people: “Faced with the reality of an illegitimate and failed government, Venezuela cries out for a change.”
A return to the Constitution
This change requires the exit of those who exercise power illegitimately and the election in the shortest possible time of a new President of the Republic. To be free and respond to the will of the sovereign people, this election postulates some indispensable conditions such as: a new impartial Electoral Council, the update of the Electoral Registry, the vote of Venezuelans abroad and a supervision of international organisations … also, the cessation of the National Constituent Assembly”. The aforementioned presidential change is made possible by Articles 70 and 71 of the Venezuelan Constitution.
We demand that the members of the Armed Forces be guided by the healthy conscience of their duty, without serving political bias, respecting the dignity and rights of the entire population, as they swore before God and the Fatherland. “In the name of God, put yourself on the true side of the Constitution and the People to which they belong, and they swore to defend!” (Statement from the Presidency of the CEV on January 8, 2020).
Those who dedicate themselves to politics, both in the government and in the opposition, must pay attention to the cries of the people, pay attention to their needs and not to the accommodations that ensure their particular privileges and interests. We value the generosity and courage of those who have accepted the risks of rescuing a true democracy.
To the Venezuelans who have left the country
Millions of Venezuelans have been forced to leave our homeland to improve their quality of life in other countries. We know of the vicissitudes that they have had to suffer and the risks that their departure has entailed. Remember that Venezuela has always distinguished itself as a host country for migrants from different parts of the world. We receive them fraternally and incorporate them into our social and cultural activities. Many of them were integrated in such a way that they formed beautiful families among us. They contributed both to the material and human development of our nation, and to the strengthening of faith in each of our Churches. We encourage you who are living in foreign land like them, to join and integrate into these new cultures. Be sure to express your testimony of faith and charity by offering your participation in the works of society and the Church. Always be ambassadors of the inheritance received from our ancestors, especially the spirit of solidarity, joy and fraternity. God protect them. Do not forget yours and feel our proximity in prayer and blessings.
To the peoples of the Americas and the world
We thank you from the heart for the welcome that the countries and churches of the continent and the world have given to those who have emigrated to be able to feel the solidarity and the real possibility of a job and a condition that allows them to live and contribute to their family who remained in Venezuela. We regret the negative actions of some Venezuelans, as well as their rejection in various sister towns. We ask the nations that receive them, to give them the care and attention that allow them to live with dignity, contributing what they can and are capable of doing.
We ask you to listen to the voice of the Venezuelan people. Before the declaration of normality that the government authorities and media proclaim and disseminate, we denounce its falsity and cynicism. It is unacceptable that a country with immense wealth has been impoverished by the imposition of an ideological system that, far from promoting true well-being, has turned its back on its citizens, so today we suffer the increase in child malnutrition, the destruction of productive apparatus and the growth of overwhelming speculation and intolerable corruption.
For those who are at the head of the government today, what counts is not the common good but the excessive interest of wealth and hegemonic power, capable of breaking down any attempt to live in true democracy. We live in a totalitarian and inhumane regime in which political dissent is pursued with torture, violent repression and murders, to this is added the presence of irregular groups under the complacent gaze of civil and military authorities, the irrational exploitation of mining resources that destroys large areas of Venezuelan territory, drug trafficking and human trafficking.
We recognise the efforts made from various international instances to address the situation in Venezuela. We continue betting on sincere dialogue and negotiations that meet the conditions of respect for the fundamental rights of the Venezuelan people: freedom, dignity, justice and democracy. We believe that international support should be directed to demand that the current Venezuelan government hold free and reliable elections, as well as solidarity and humanitarian assistance to solve the emergency situation of most Venezuelans.
To the sister churches of the
Americas and the world
We extend our gratitude for the welcome, attention and support to so many Venezuelans who have arrived in their nations. We know of the solidarity with which they have received them, thus showing the fraternal charity without limits that distinguishes the disciples of the Lord Jesus. They will tell you about the sad situation that plagues our nation where we are giving a hopeful ecclesial response. We are aware of the complexity of receiving such a large number of people and we are sure that the inheritance of a faith lived and enriched by the work in the parishes, ecclesial institutions and apostolate movements of many of them will contribute to the well-being of their communities. Not a few of them have joined to participate as evangelising agents. We urge you to continue accompanying them in their commitment and maturing in the faith.
Venezuelan brothers, sister churches and peoples of the world: we reiterate our vocation as pastors and servants of all. We echo the cries of freedom, justice and healthy coexistence that flow from the hearts of those who suffer in this beautiful land of grace. We implore the maternal protection of Mary of Coromoto, heavenly patron of our nation who asks us to do what her son Jesus Christ tells us.
The Archbishops and Bishops of Venezuela.