“We are fellow travellers!”. The Venezuelan Church wants to walk together, alongside its people, during these special and intense days of its history, as the Pope had asked a few months ago during the ad limina visit of the bishops at the Vatican. These are the words of Msgr. José Trinidad Fernández, auxiliary bishop of Caracas and secretary general of the Venezuelan Bishops’ Conference (CEV). SIR contacted Mgr. Fernández at the end of the press conference where the Venezuelan Church once again spoke out on the situation of the country 48 hours after last Saturday’s massive demonstrations. The bishop has renewed the appeal shared with most of the population: “The people are asking for political change, we need to go to credible and transparent elections”. Just a few minutes before, Msgr Fernández had taken part in the press conference for the presentation of a communiqué of the Venezuelan Episcopal Conference (CEV), of the Conference of the Religious (CONVER) and of the National Council of Laity of Venezuela (CNL). The document is signed by the president of CEV, Msgr. José Luis Azuaje Ayala, archbishop of Maracaibo (currently attending the Latin American Caritas Assembly in Honduras – justified reason for his absence), by the president of CONVER, the Salesian Father Francisco Méndez, and by the president of NLL, María Elena Febres-Cordero Briceño.
The Church stands alongside its people. “In all the communities in which we serve, and throughout the Country, we have witnessed a terrible situation of injustice and suffering due to the lack of the basic necessities for a worthy and productive life, and the lack of defense in the face of injustice”, the note reads.
“All this has generated, with determination and hope, the search for political change through a peaceful and transparent transition process leading to free and legitimate elections, to the return of a democratic direction and the restoration of the rule of law, to the reconstruction of the social fabric, of economic production and of high spirits in the country, in the coming together of all Venezuelans”.
Naturally, the words are confirmed by Msgr. Fernández, who also underlines the importance of a unified pronouncement of bishops, the faithful and lay people: “A joint communiqué is the expression of a Synodal Church, as Pope Francis has asked us. In this case, we feel that it is the stance of all the people. God asks us to interpret the signs of the times and that is what we try to do”. The prelate continues: “We are also inspired by the recent Message of the Pope for the Day of Peace, which speaks of the need for good politics in the service of peace. That is what we are trying to do right now, in a time there the social fabric needs to be reorganized. We do not want to see people arbitrarily detained, children looking for food in the garbage”.
There must be no bloodshed. In the conversation with Msgr. Fernández the word “peace” is repeatedly mentioned, at a time when US President Donald Trump has yet to rule out military intervention:
“We are in constant contact with the Vatican, with the Pope, with the Secretary of State, Card. Pietro Parolin and with the nuncio, Msgr Aldo Giordano. We know that the Pope is very worried about bloodshed”.
Under no circumstance would we want this to happen. We know that the Venezuelan people are peaceful people, and we need a negotiated, peaceful solution that respects all parties. The commandment ‘thou shalt not kill’ is particularly relevant at this time, and this must be a process of peace, not war”. At the same time, Maduro’s actions, including his letter to the Pope mentioned yesterday by the Vatican Secretary of Vatican, seem like attempts to “buy time.” Of course, “the call for dialogue is ours, and we have stated it many times in our statements. This dialogue must lead to a peaceful transition and to the political change that the people are asking for”. In addition, the Venezuelan Church continues to report on the dramatic situation of the population and the lack of food and medicine: “it is essential to open the Country to humanitarian aid, the situation we are in is dramatic and unheard of; children are starving and we are lacking basic medicines”.