By Robin Gomes
Pope Francis "prays constantly" for all Venezuelans, "closely follows the development of the situation" and encourages the local Church that has put itself "on the side of the people who are suffering". Cardinal Peter Turkson, the Prefect of the Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, wrote in a message to the participants in a 2-day initiative called “Charity at the border”, which ended on Friday in the Colombian Diocese of Cucuta, on the border with Venezuela.
The meeting was promoted by the local Church together with the Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development and the Migrants and Refugees Section. The event was attended by the undersecretaries of the Dicastery and the Section, respectively Monsignor Segundo Tejado Muñoz and Father Fabio Baggio, the apostolic nuncios, representatives of the Episcopal Conferences of Colombia and Venezuela, the Latin American Episcopal Council (CELAM), the bishops of the dioceses on the Venezuelan-Columbian border, representatives of Caritas Colombia, Caritas Venezuela, Caritas Internationalis and the International Catholic Migration Commission.
The promoters of the Cucuta initiative wanted to show the concern of the Holy Father for the border situation and to bring together the various charitable efforts in favour of the weakest people in a context of humanitarian crisis like the one that Venezuela is going through.
In the message, read at the event in Cucuta by Msgr. Tejado, Cardinal Turkson recalled the gravity of the Venezuelan crisis, which according to United Nations estimates, has caused 5 million migrants and refugees in Latin America and the Caribbean.
Venezuela’s economy has been caught in a downward spiral for years with growing political discontent, exacerbated further by soaring hyperinflation, power cuts and shortages of food and medicine. In recent years, close to five million people have left the once-wealthy nation, which has the world’s largest crude oil reserves.
The people are caught up in a bitter power struggle between the government of President Nicolás Maduro and the opposition led by Jan Guaido who declared himself president January 23 2019.
Cardinal Turkson wrote that the Cucuta meeting responds "to the appeal of Pope Francis" to support efforts to alleviate the suffering of the people of Venezuela. The Dicastery and the Migrants and Refugees Section, he said, wish "to make a concrete contribution to deeply analyze the needs and adequately coordinate the aid of the Church network in favour of all those affected by the humanitarian crisis". The intention, Cardinal Turkson said, is to create, as already done in the past for Syria and Iraq, "a platform, a service to share information" that gives a clear picture of the charity efforts of the Church in an emergency.
Persons such as migrants, the needy, the excluded and victims of conflicts, Cardinal Turkson wrote, are the vulnerable people that the Dicastery is called to serve. He commended the contribution of those who are addressing the situations of pain and despair of the "multitude of displaced persons and refugees, victims of this crisis".
Cardinal Turkson concluded his message with a prayer to the Virgin Mary that an agreement be reached as soon as possible to put an end to the suffering of people, for the good of Venezuela and the whole region.