Venezuelan Bishops and President Maduro Vie for Pope’s Backing in Showdown

Venezuelan Bishops and President Maduro Vie for Pope’s Backing in Showdown

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To whom will the Francis listen: The bishops or the dictator? This reminds me of …

by THOMAS D. WILLIAMS, PH.D., ex-L.C., a.k.a. Mr. Elizabeth Lev Glendon
14 Jun 20173

In a major stand-off between Venezuelan dictator Nicolás Maduro and the Catholic bishops of the country, both groups have appealed to Pope Francis for his support and mediation of the conflict.

Last week, the leadership of the Venezuelan bishops’ conference traveled to Rome to meet with the Pope, after which the bishops declared that the pontiff told them they have his “full trust.”

“He told us that that he’s very close to us and very well informed about the situation of Venezuela, and very close to the suffering of the people,” said Archbishop Diego Padrón, president of the Venezuelan Bishops’ Conference.

“And he also told us that we have his full trust, and we have a great communion with him and his magisterium, so there’s no distance between him and the conference,” he added.

During their meeting, the six prelates also delivered two documents to the Pope. The first gave the names of the 70 people, mostly youth, who have been killed by government repression during street protests in Caracas and other cities in Venezuela. The second text detailed what the bishops’ conference has done so far to alleviate the crisis.

In their meeting with Francis, the bishops insisted that Venezuela’s internal conflict was not a standoff between right and left but rather “a fight between a government which has turned into a dictatorship, an inward-looking [regime] which serves only its own interests, and an entire people which is crying out for freedom and desperately seeking, at the risk of its youngest lives, bread, medicine, security, work and fair elections.”

The bishops also put forward the demands they have made on the Venezuelan government: cessation of violence, an end to repression of peaceful demonstrations, human rights, reconciliation and peace. Currently, the country is in the throes of a severe crisis and many lack even the most basic essentials, such as food, water and medicines.

The bishops’ declarations followed on alleged attempts by Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro to create a division between the Pope and the bishops of his country, suggesting that the bishops did not speak for the people or for the Church.

In the meantime, President Maduro himself sent his own letter to Pope Francis, unctuously offering the pontiff “a respectful and fraternal greeting in Christ, together with the renewed expression of my gratitude for all that you have done and do for peace, dialogue and peaceful coexistence in Venezuela here and now.”

In his letter, Maduro denounces the continued violence of “an increasingly small minority” acting out of “unconfessed and dark political ends.”

Peppering his text with references to the New Testament and to the Pope’s own writings, Maduro attempts to make the case that the blame for Venezuela’s dire situation is actually not the government, but the opposition, whom he associates with “a totally hysterical right” that doesn’t believe in dialogue or coexistence.

While paying lip service to the democratic value of peaceful political protest, the leader claims that Venezuela has moved beyond that stage.

In the end, Maduro appeals to Pope Francis to mediate in the conflict suggesting that under his guidance Venezuela will be able to “open a new stage of national dialogue.”

“I am rigorously following the example of Commander Chavez,” Maduro writes at the end of his missive, referring to former Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, a Marxist whom many considered a dictator in his own right, especially after he greatly expanded the powers of the presidency and eliminated term limits on the office.

Despite Maduro’s outward Catholic trappings, his government has twisted Christianity into a Marxist tool, even going so far as to compose a new version of the Lord’s prayer, substituting the name of Chavez for God–a move that many Catholics found to be blasphemous.

Beginning with the words, “Our Chávez,” the reworked prayer begs the deceased despot to “lead us not into the temptation of capitalism” and “deliver us from … oligarchy.”

Pope Francis welcomed President Maduro in the Vatican last October and offered to take “any step that would contribute to resolving open questions and generate greater trust between the parties.” Two months later, the wives and mother of two Venezuelan political prisoners also asked for a meeting with the Pope, asking for his intercession to procure the release of opposition party leader Leopoldo López and former Caracas mayor Antonio Ledezma.

In this instance, the Pope did not receive the women, who ended up chaining themselves to the gates of the Vatican in peaceful protest over the abuses and injustices enveloping the Latin American nation.

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One comment on “Venezuelan Bishops and President Maduro Vie for Pope’s Backing in Showdown

  1. [The Vatican solution (announced low-profile and with no recriminations): More dialogue and new elections, which if not rigged by the dictatorship, will thrown them out of office]

    Vatican calls for negotiations, elections to resolve Venezuelan crisis

    Catholic World News – June 16, 2017

    Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican Secretary of State, has told Latin American leaders that the Holy See supports negotiations to resolve the political and economic crisis in Latin America.

    “The Holy See continues to consider that a serious and sincere negotiation between the parties, based on very clear conditions, beginning with the celebration of constitutionally scheduled elections, can solve the serious situation in Venezuela and the suffering to which the population is subjected,” Cardinal Parolin said in his letter. He said that the Vatican will continue to push for a peaceful solution to the crisis and an end to violent confrontations in Venezuela.

    The cardinal’s message essentially reiterates the stand that Pope Francis has taken consistently, calling for negotiations but avoiding direct criticism of the government of President Nicolas Maduro. The Venezuelan bishops have been far more outspoken in their criticism of the regime and their support for public protests.

    The statement from the Secretary of State does make the subtle point that negotiations should be “based on very clear conditions,” including the scheduling of elections. After agreeing to mediate talks between the government and opposition leaders, the Vatican backed away when the talks stalled because the government refused to fulfill the agreed-upon conditions, including the scheduling of elections. Nevertheless Vatican officials have carefully avoided assigning blame for the failure of the talks.

    President Maduro took advantage of the Vatican’s careful stance this week by releasing a statement calling for Pope Francis to denounce the opposition leadership for “training children” to participate in public protests against the government. Maduro has also charged the Venezuelan bishops with stirring up protests. Thus his appeal to the Pope appeared to be a bid to accentuate differences in approach between the Pope and the Venezuelan hierarchy.

    Pope Francis met last week with a delegation from the Venezuelan bishops’ conference to discuss the crisis. The letter from Cardinal Parolin to Latin American political leaders was the first substantial statement of Vatican policy since that meeting.

    In what may be another indication of the Vatican’s desire to maintain a low profile on the issue, Cardinal Parolin’s was not released by the Vatican press office. It was made public by an Italian news site, Sismografo.

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