Pontius Pilate Has Reappeared In Venezuela

Pontius Pilate Has Reappeared In Venezuela

Sandro Magister
11 may 2017

The number of dead is now around forty, the wounded number a thousand. It is the price of a month of popular demonstrations, even of only women dressed in white, against the presidency of Nicolás Maduro, in a Venezuela on the brink.

A Venezuela in which a new factor has recently taken the field, and this is the growing, systematic aggression against properties and personnel of the Catholic Church.

Vatican sources – starting with “L’Osservatore Romano” – as detailed as they are in covering the developments of the crisis, are sparing with news about aggression against the Church.

There is not a single reference to this even in the letter that Pope Francis wrote on May 5 to the Venezuelan bishops, who on the same day published a vibrant declaration against the announcement made by Maduro of a “constitutional convention” to reform the state for his use and consumption, meaning in practice – the bishops charge – to impose “a totalitarian, militaristic, violent, oppressive police state system” even worse than the “21st-century socialism” set up by Maduro’s predecesssor, Hugo Chávez, a leader still praised by many leftist populist groups in Latin America and elsewhere.

For Sunday, May 21, the bishop have called a “Day of prayer for peace in Venezuela.” But meanwhile, here is an initial survey of the aggression against the Catholic Church, published by the Venezuelan journalist Marinellys Tremamunno in La Nuova Bussola Quotidiana of April 2:

> Venezuela, inizia la persecuzione della Chiesa

Nothing is off-limits. Death threats and blasphemous graffiti on the walls of churches. Masses interrupted by incursions of Chavist “colectivos.” Caracas cardinal Jorge Urosa Savino silenced during the homily and forced to leave the church. The venerated image of the Nazarene in the cathedral of Valencia smeared with human excrement. The chanceries of the dioceses of Guarenas and Maracay plundered. Thefts of consecrated hosts in Maracaibo. The headquarters of the episcopal conference devastated. One priest killed in Guayana and another abducted.

But it doesn’t end there. On May 4, the doors of the cathedral of Caracas were damaged and its walls were covered with graffiti in praise of the government. That same day, a crowd of students from the Catholic university marched on the episcopal residence, as a sign of solidarity.

Because by now the bishops too are an “enemy” against whom the Maduro presidency is lashing out with vehemence. Especially after the failure at the outset of the attempt at mediation between the government and opposition groups supported at the end of last year by pope Jorge Mario Bergoglio through his envoys:

> Venezuela, a Nation on the Brink of the Abyss (7.11.2017)

The stance adopted by the Vatican authorities to foster a reconciliation among the parties was that expressed by Cardinal Pietro Parolin, formerly the nuncio in Caracas before his appointment as secretary of state, in the letter he sent to the parties in mid-December, “in the name and at the behest of the Holy Father.”

In it, he identified four conditions for the opening of dialogue:

– humanitarian channels to guarantee the population food and medicine;
– restitution to the parliament (in which the opposition groups are in the majority) of the prerogatives stipulated by the constitution;
– the liberation of political prisoners;
– new free elections.

But the Maduro presidency has not wanted to meet any of these conditions. On the contrary, it has made additional decisions that have ramped up the repression.

And Pope Francis has been punctually informed about everything. Also through direct conversations with Venezuelan bishops, including the president of the episcopal conference, Cardinal Baltazar Porras Cardozo, archbishop of Mérida, who met with the pope in Rome on April 27, on the eve of his journey to Egypt.

So one can understand the disappointment and anger of many Venezuelans, including bishops, when two days later, on April 29, during the customary press conference on the flight back to Rome from Cairo, Francis said this about the crisis in Venezuela:

“There was an effort by the Holy See, but this did not produce results, because the proposals were not accepted, or were diluted with a ‘yes, yes, but no, no.’ We all know the difficult situation in Venezuela, which is a country that I love very much. I know that now there is insistence – I believe on the part of the four former presidents [of Colombia, Spain, Panama, and Santo Domingo – editor’s note] – to restore this facilitation. I believe that conditions have already been presented. Very clear conditions. But part of the opposition does not want this. Because it is curious, the opposition is divided. And, on the other hand, it appears that the conflicts are intensifying all the time. There is something astir, I am informed about it, but it is very much up in the air. But everything that can be done for Venezuela must be done. With the necessary guarantees. If not, we are playing ‘tintìn pirulero’ [where everyone wants to get out of paying the pledge – editor’s note], and this is no good.”

The next day, Sunday, April 30, speaking at the “Regina Caeli,” Francis moderated somewhat the dismissive words he spoke on the plane against the Venezuelan opposition groups, practically blamed for being the ones who ruined the agreement. He addressed “a heartfelt appeal to the government and to all the components of society that every further form of violence be avoided, human rights be respected, and negotiated solutions be sought for the grave humanitarian, social, political, and economic crisis that is devastating the population.” But this correction has by no means calmed the waters. Twelve hours later, in fact, the opposition groups wrote a letter to the pope in which “not divided but unanimous” they said that they agree to the conditions set by Cardinal Parolin – unlike the government, which has always rejected them – and indicated free elections as the only way out of the crisis.

The fact is that between Pope Francis and the Venezuelan bishops, concerning the crisis that is ravaging the country, there is an abyss. The bishops stand with the population that is protesting against the dictatorship, and are respected and listened to as authoritative guides. While Bergoglio is judged on a par with Pontius Pilate, unforgivably reckless with Maduro and Chavism, in addition to being incomprehensibly reticent on the victims of the repression and on the aggression that is striking the Church itself.

It is a fracture analogous to the one produced in Bolivia, where President Evo Morales has his biggest critics in the bishops, and instead a tireless supporter in the pope. Or that which was seen during the pope’s journey to Cuba, where Francis did not conceal his admiration for the Castro brothers, while not dignifying the dissidents with so much as a word or a glance.

Many see the root of the pope’s behavior in his invincible populist sentiment, typically Latin American, brought to light once again in recent days by one of the leading scholars of the phenomenon, Professor Loris Zanatta of the university of Bologna, in a long essay in “Il Foglio” of May 8:

“Reality, Bergoglio repeats, is greater than ideas. And yet, seeing his silence on the social drama in Venezuela, or in the country that with Chávez had set itself up as a model of anti-liberalism by invoking the stereotypes dear to the pope, the thought arises that he too, like many, prefers his ideas to reality.”

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3 comments on “Pontius Pilate Has Reappeared In Venezuela

  1. Updates from Catholic World News – May 11, 2017

    1. Latin American bishops blame Maduro for Venezuela’s crisis

    The Catholic bishops of Latin America have joined in support of the Venezuelan hierarchy, blaming President Nicolas Maduro for the humanitarian crisis in Venezuela.

    CELAM, the conference of Latin American bishops, which is meeting in El Salvador this week, took a stand after hearing reports from Venezuelan prelates. The country has been engulfed in protests since the Venezuelan supreme court, which Maduro controls, disbanded the National Assembly.

    Bishop Castor Oswaldo Azuaje Perez of Trujillo, Venezuela, said in a newspaper interview that “the government is barking up the wrong tree” in attempting to quell public demonstrations without allowing for democratic elections. He said that the country’s government is now functioning as a dictatorship.

    2. Pope’s message to Latin American hierarchy: listen to the laity

    In a message to the Catholic hierarchy of Latin America, Pope Francis has underlined the importance of listening to the laity, and being willing to join them in their struggle to live the Gospel in a troubled world.

    The full text of the Pope’s message to the Latin American Episcopal Council (CELAM) was made public by the Vatican on May 11. In it the Pope remarks that this week’s meeting of CELAM leaders, taking place in El Salvador, occurs against the “background music” of the celebration of the 300th anniversary of the Brazilian shrine of Our Lady of Aparecida. He remarks: “Our Lady of Aparecida makes us grown, and places us on the path of the disciple. Aparecida is above all a school of discipleship.”

    Recalling that the image of Our Lady of Aparecida was discovered by fishermen, the Pope says that fishermen have to contend with the uncertainty of the catch and the occasional inclemency of the weather. This is the plight of most working people, he said: working with “the insecurity of not knowing what the result will be.” The Holy Father went on to denounce the corruption that is prevalent in many Latin American countries:

    And what hurts the most is seeing that, almost regularly, they go out to face the inclemency generated by one of the gravest sins that currently afflicts our Continent: corruption, that corruption that sweeps through lives, submerging them in the most extreme poverty. Corruption that destroys entire populations, subjecting them to precariousness.

    Pope Francis urged the bishops of the region to appreciate the faith and the work of the laity. “Learning to listen to the People of God,” he said, “means to rid ourselves of our prejudices and rationalism, our functionalist mindsets, so as to understand how the Spirit acts in the hearts of so many men and women who with great zeal do not cease to throw nets and to fight to make the Gospel credible.” He told the prelates that they should “not be afraid to get dirty for our people.”

  2. PopeWatch: Dialogue

    Posted by Donald R. McClarey on 5/10/17

    Dialogue: our contemporary equivalent of a shaman waving his enchanted sticks:

    Pope Francis sent a message to Venezuelan bishops, amid a wave of protests across the country, against the government of President Nicolás Maduro, which has left more than 30 dead.

    “I assure you that I am following with great concern the situation of the beloved Venezuelan people in the face of the grave problems that afflict it,” said the Pontiff in his letter Friday. “I feel a deep sorrow for the confrontations and violence of these days, which have caused numerous deaths and injuries, and which do not help to solve the problems, but only cause more suffering and pain.”

    The Catholic leader called on Venezuelan church leaders to warn against”any form of violence,” adding that “the serious problems of Venezuela can be solved If there is a will to establish bridges, to dialogue seriously and to comply with the agreements reached.”

    The Pope, who has repeatedly urged dialogue between sectors in Venezuela, recently criticized a section of the opposition for not being disposed to talks.

    Despite Pope Francis’ calls, Venezuelan opposition leaders said they would not participate in the National Constituent Assembly convened by President Nicolas Maduro to rewrite the constitution.

    “(The process) is not a Constituent, we could hardly go to an absolutely fraudulent process, we Venezuelans will not be part of a fraud,” leader of the opposition MUD coalition, Henrique Capriles, said Sunday.

    Go here to read the rest. Venezuela does not need dialogue at the present time but rather Dictator Maduro on a one way trip into exile. When dialogue is your solution to everything, you become both fatuous and immoral, as you call for dialogue between tyrants and their victims. If Pope Francis can’t do better than this, perhaps it would be better if he simply keeps silent.

  3. Venezuela’s bishops blast Maduro proposal for new assembly

    [Nonetheless, FrankenPope says, “The serious problems of Venezuela can be solved If there is a will to establish bridges, to dialogue seriously and to comply with the agreements reached”]

    Catholic World News – May 12, 2017

    Venezuela’s bishops have strongly criticized President Nicolas Maduro’s call to create a “constituent assembly” to replace the nation’s legislature, which is led by the opposition.

    The bishops called upon Venezuelans to pray and to “raise their voice of protest” without taking part in violence.

    Citing the government’s “repressive nature through the suffocation of legitimate protest with excessive and inhuman violence,” the bishops said that they cannot ignore “the sadness and suffering that this regime is provoking in our people.”

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