Barinas (Agenzia Fides) - "A Dantesque painting". With this effective expression, Bishop José Luis Azuaje, at the head of the diocese of Barinas and President of the Venezuelan Episcopal Conference (CEV), describes to Fides the socio-economic situation of the country. "In the life of citizens, the purchasing power is almost zero. There is so much desperation, which leads people to commit looting and violence every day, because there is no food in supermarkets. Not to mention medicines", he notes. The wealth of the country "does not reach people, because the State takes it", he explains, "but the impoverished people deserve to be the subject of their destiny, with dignity". The armed forces, "are violently repressing the protests and do not act to protect the lives of citizens, failing to respect human rights".
The Church, the President continues, contributes as much as possible, above all thanks to the work of Caritas, but also suffers from the decrease in funds, which the faithful give through collections. There is also the exodus of foreign priests who are elderly, ill or simply frightened by the violence and the lack of possibilities for being treated. "Half of our people in charge of family pastoral and youth leaders - the Bishop points out - have now emigrated to Colombia, Peru or Chile, because they have no opportunities here". Together with them, about two million fellow citizens have left the country, for whom Mgr. Azuaje asks for the solidarity of the neighboring countries, so they are welcomed and "as brothers".
For the dramatic situation at home, the Bishops call for "the solidarity of the Church in other countries and institutions of international cooperation", such as Caritas Internationalis. The situation is aggravated by the fact that the government does not recognize the emergency and does not allow the official arrival of aid, which only worsens the current situation. The President of the Episcopal Conference cites an example: "Caritas specialists have detected a worrying growth in child malnutrition among children under five years of age. They sent these data to the health authorities, but they refused them, as well as forbidding the publication of those figures". Cases like this are on the agenda, adds the Bishop: "We will always invite to dialogue - says the Prelate - but if this does not bring results, CEV proposes to hold a referendum to know the real will of the population on the future of country. We will also continue to encourage the people to act for their own survival". "We must build all of Venezuela", the Bishop hopes, while it is clear that the Church "is not hostile to anyone, but accompanies society with the prophecy, the denunciation and the proclamation of the Gospel". "We must unite - he concludes - to form communities, to help one another, with a sense of communion that the Church does not stop practicing, especially now, when the people are suffering".
Meanwhile, the Council of Latin American Bishops (Celam) and the Uruguayan Episcopal Conference, among others, have expressed their concern and solidarity with the Venezuelan people and Church. (SM) (Agenzia Fides, 26/01/2018)