AMERICA/VENEZUELA - Decrease in the number of churchgoers: pastoral concepts need to be reconsidered

Monday, 9 January 2023 episcopal conferences   local churches   social situation  


Caracas (Agenzia Fides) - "What is happening in Venezuela is part of what is happening in a world that is not just experiencing a period of change, but a turning point and it is commonplace to speak of a crisis", said the President of the Venezuelan Bishops' Conference, Msgr. Jesús González De Zárate, Archbishop of Cumaná in his opening address at the beginning of the Ordinary Plenary Assembly Bishops' Conference on Saturday, January 7, in Caracas. The Archbishop also mentioned what he considers to be the appropriate pastoral measures to be taken according to the signs of the times, to be discussed at the Plenary Assembly, which is due to end on January 12th.
"We live in a world marked by social injustice and the scandal of inequality between peoples," said the Archbishop, recalling the drama of the displaced people, among whom are seven million Venezuelans, and criticizing the refugee policies of the states concerned.
Venezuela does not escape the consequences of systematic environmental degradation, exploitation of minors and human trafficking, as well as maintaining economic and political models that cannot guarantee integral human development, said the President of the Bishops' Conference. The President of the Bishops' Conference also believes that the effects of the ongoing wars being waged in various parts of the world should not be ignored. We live in a world "which is still a long way from a just and peaceful international order and in which the dignity of the human person and the common good do not yet prevail over other interests," he stressed.
The past year has not brought any significant improvements in the social, economic and political landscape for the country compared to the past few decades. In the society in which we live, "a small minority can afford almost anything, while the vast majority of impoverished people do not even have the bare minimum to survive," the Archbishop said. Although there have been early signs of improvement in economic indicators lately, without structured and organic measures, the Venezuelan economy will always succumb to instability.
When asked about the future that awaits us, "it's not always easy to give an answer, given the complexity and fragmentation that characterizes our reality," he stressed. But as a Catholic church, “the decision was made to 'be the people', to be close to the people and not to let the people down. To be close to the poorest, to comfort the afflicted, to heal the wounded heart, to educate and enlighten the conscience, to speak out in defense of human rights, and to insist on the ethical and moral principles that we must all be guided by".
At the ecclesial level, Archbishop De Zárate also highlighted some important events for the universal Church, the Latin American Church and the Church of Venezuela, as well as the commitment to continue the pastoral project of the local Church towards the new evangelization. "Although the Catholic Church as an institution still has a high level of credibility," he stressed, "the ecclesiastical landscape in this country, as in other Latin American countries, shows signs of weakening. Today, less than 80% of the population identify themselves Catholic and the trend is decreasing. The number of those who receive the sacraments is low and participation in the Sunday liturgy is low". This situation requires the Church to "rethink pastoral care specifically oriented towards the Church", since traditional forms of pastoral care are no longer sufficient to reach the most distant, while religious indifference is increasing.
The Archbishop concluded by reiterating a concept that the bishops had expressed earlier: "It is the hour of the laity," called to intervene in topical issues that modern ideologies strongly challenge, such as the family and Marriage, morals and life, and also to strengthen the relationship between faith and politics. At the end of his speech, Archbishop Jesús González De Zárate said: "Despite the difficulties, or rather precisely because they exist, they ask us to redouble faith, hope and Christian charity as we contemplate our social and ecclesial reality and face it". (SL) (Agenzia Fides, 9/1/2023)