By Linda Bordoni
In order to begin to reverse the dramatic situation in which Venezuela finds itself, the Venezuelan bishops claim a political change of direction is urgently needed.
“Faced with the reality of an illegitimate and bankrupt government,” Venezuela is crying for “a change of direction, a return to the Constitution,” they say.
A message issued at the end of the Plenary Assembly of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Venezuela said this change requires “the exit of the person who exercises power in an illegitimate manner and an election, as soon as possible, of a new President of the Republic”.
The elections, the bishops stress, must however be free and respond to the will of the people.
Thus, they continue, what is needed, therefore, are “indispensable” conditions, such as a new impartial National Electoral Council, the updating of electoral registers, the possibility for Venezuelans living abroad to cast their votes and the supervision of international monitors.
“The cessation of the Constituent Assembly,” the bishops continue, is also needed; and they issue an appeal to the armed forces and to the police, to work “in accordance with justice and truth and not in the service of a political party,” which will allow them to eradicate the current practices of persecution and torture from within their own institutions.
A dramatic situation that worsens by the day
The bishops’ statement describes a “dramatic” situation in the nation that worsens by the day, as confirmed by the recent report by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.
That report highlights, among other things, numerous cases of arbitrary detention, torture and ill-treatment, violence, excessive use of force by government security forces.
The report also reveals that for over a decade, policies have been adopted and strengthened that have curtailed democracy in different spheres.
This situation, the bishops point out, is compounded by “the exodus of more than 12% of the Venezuelan population; an exodus caused by the political situation, the impoverishment of the middle class and contempt for the poor”.
The ethical and spiritual renewal of the country is "the task of all".
The Venezuelan bishops say they are also concerned that “within the context of this crisis, the moral deterioration of society is gaining ground, with its aftermath of violence, falsehood, corruption and irresponsibility, while despair and fear are growing.”
They say that faced with this situation, “one of the Church’s greatest tasks is to build a society that is more just, more worthy, more human, more Christian and more supportive”.
The bishops’ message goes on to underscore the fact that the ethical and spiritual renewal of the country is “the task of all” and that the participation of all sectors of society is necessary to create and to implement a project for “the democratic reconstruction of the nation, in justice, freedom and peace, through clear objectives and concrete tasks.”
Bringing in humanitarian aid
With regard to the current humanitarian emergency, the Venezuelan bishops renew their appeal for a substantial distribution of food and medicines, with the participation and supervision of international organizations.
They also reiterate their own willingness to participate in the distribution of aid, especially through the Caritas network.
Thanks to Pope Francis and to other Churches and Governments
The message concludes reaffirming the Church's commitment to “continue to strengthen faith in Jesus Christ who heals and frees, and to bring hope to our people, through the development of training programmes and the promotion of human rights”, as well as through quality education.
The bishops do not neglect to thank Pope Francis, the Church and the governments of other countries, especially neighbouring countries, for their closeness.
Synod on the Amazon: an opportunity to give impetus to evangelization
Finally, the message refers to the Special Synod for the Panamazon Region next October, which the bishops see as “an opportunity to give impetus to evangelization and pastoral care; to reflect and to take action to protect and care for indigenous peoples and the environment”, in the perspective of an integral ecology, which guarantees water sources and other natural resources that are necessary for the country and for the planet.