By Richard Marsden
Venezuela’s most senior bishop has pleaded with Catholics to resist the evil of injustice that continues to blight the country.
Archbishop Diego Rafael Padrón Sánchez has opened the Plenary Assembly of the Venezuelan Episcopal Conference by calling for a reaction of “internal rebellion as a sign of moral health” against violence and falsehood amid the country’s ongoing socioeconomic crisis.
Suffering of Venezuelans
Dedicating the second half of his speech to the dramatic political and social situation in the country, Archbishop Padrón said: "We Venezuelans did not live in 2017, we suffered it." He described how between April and July last year, more than 130 people died because of the current situation, 1,500 were injured and thousands of prisoners were illegally incarcerated.
“In recent months,” he said, “the general malaise of the country has grown and spread ever more rapidly. Food and medicines are not only scarce, but when they appear, they increase exorbitantly in price every day.”
The opening of the bishops’ conference meeting came just a day after chaotic scenes outside supermarkets in the capital Caracas where groups of people banged on shop doors demanding food after the government ordered shops to slash prices.
As a result of the desperate social situation, Archbishop Padrón described Christmas as one of the “saddest” in the recent history of Venezuela.
Concern for prisoners
The Archbishop of Cumaná said pastors were “very concerned about the lives of our people”, not only for their health, nutrition, work and education but also their “authentically Christian spiritual identity and consequent moral life.” He added the bishops were “hurt by the inhumane situation in which most prisoners live” and that their pain was “increased by the fact that the prison authorities prevent us from visiting them.”
The Archbishop described the current political administration led by President Nicolas Maduro as “Castroist Marxism”, named after the leaders of the Cuban revolution, and defined it as “21st Century Socialism”. Archbishop Padrón reiterated the bishops’ position that the regime is anti-democratic and illegitimate. In response, he said, the Church "raises its voice, that of its faithful and its pastors, in defense of life and the rights of the people.”