Pope Francis blesses Religious Icon for Syria with ACN reps

Pope Francis blesses Religious Icon for Syria with ACN reps
Pope Francis blesses Our Lady of Sorrows, Consoler of Syrians – Aid to the Church in Need

ROME, ITALY – A small delegation of representatives from the papal charity foundation, Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) stood witness to the Holy Father’s blessing of the icon of the Our Lady of Sorrows, Consoler of Syrians. The icon was made in August by Fr. Spiridon Kabbash, a Greek Orthodox priest from Homs in Syria. Present in this initiative is the organization’s National Director for the Philippines, Jonathan Luciano.

Our Lady of Sorrows, Consoler of Syrians was designated to bring a dawn of hope, peace, and consolation to all Christians of the world. It shows the beloved Virgin Mary, Mother of God, seated on a throne, with the Lord Jesus Christ on her lap. Holding an orb, the icon depicts that He entrusts the care of the world to his Mother, similar to what he did with all humankind under the cross. Also in visible detail is war-stricken Syria, very much destroyed and wounded with all the unheard and unknown battles plaguing its grounds. According to an interview with Fr. Kabbash, the icon is a message of hope. “We will send it to many places of the world, because they need consolation from God. The war is too heavy for the people,” he mentioned. 

Pope Francis with ACN Philippines Director Jonathan Luciano – Aid to the Church in Need

“I was personally, deeply moved by the message of the icon. It strengthened in me the challenge to rise to the mission to help the suffering Church, especially our persecuted brothers and sisters,” ACN Philippines Director Luciano shared. The icon will be travelling to all the dioceses of Syria and the whole of Middle East to spread the message of peace and consolation to all war victims. This is part of the “Console My People” campaign, an ACN initiative for Syrians. Last August, 6,000 rosaries were also blessed by the Pope for the relatives of the victims. 

Pope Francis with ACN representatives for the icon blessing – Aid to the Church in Need

“There is a greater need to be sensitive and aware of the plight of our suffering brothers and sisters, and the icon of the sorrowful mother, who, in her tears, consoles her children. Which is why I also asked the Pope to pray for the Philippines, especially the persecuted and the oppressed. He agreed, and Pope Francis requests that we pray for him as well,” Luciano added. 

“An important step, but one that needs to be followed by action”

"An important step, but one that needs to be followed by action"

UN International Day Victims of Acts of Religious Violence – August 22

A woman praying solemnly at the candles – Aid to the Church in Need

“The new day to commemorate the victims of religious violence is an important step to ensuring that more attention is paid to persecuted Christians in the future,” explained Dr Thomas Heine-Geldern.

The executive president of the pontifical foundation Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) is pleased that for the first time this year, 22 August can be celebrated as the International Day Commemorating the Victims of Acts of Violence Based on Religion or Belief. The respective resolution was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in May.

Following an international conference held by ACN in Rome in September 2017, the lawyer and author Ewelina Ochab took the initiative to draw attention to infringements of religious freedom and in particular to the persecution of Christians and to appeal to the international community to act. Since then, she has spoken at many conferences to build up a network of supporters.

The proposed resolution was ultimately introduced to the United Nations General Assembly by Poland. The proposal was supported by the United States, Canada, Brazil, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Nigeria and Pakistan. “It was a long process and involved many people, but ACN was the inspiration,” Ms Ochab said.

“As an organisation that has been dedicated to helping suffering Christians for over 70 years, we at ACN are very excited that the United Nations has proclaimed this day. A step that has long been overdue,” Dr. Heine-Geldern said. “All religious communities regularly fall victim to violence, but as international reports on religious freedom confirm time and again, Christians are unfortunately the group that is most persecuted.”

During the last five years alone, there have been two cases of genocide of religious minorities: the first of Christians and other religious groups by the troops of the “Islamic State” in Iraq and in Syria, and the second of the Muslim Rohingya minority in Myanmar.

Inauguration of Dr. Thomas Heine-Geldern as new executive president of ACN at the Haus der Begegnung – Aid to the Church in Need

Dr Heine-Geldern also referred to systematically-organised atrocities which are increasingly being committed in particular against Christians in Africa. The ACN president considers the new day of commemoration to be an important milestone, which, however, should be seen only as a first step.

“It is important that 22 August does not become an end in itself, but triggers a process that motivates the international community to implement a coordinated plan of action to end religious persecution and prevent it in the future.”

A man amid the ruins of the Armenian Catholic cathedral in the Al-Telal district of Aleppo – Aid to the Church in Need

“It is really the duty of the United Nations, governments and political actors to enforce the human right of freedom of religion. This symbolic day must be followed by action.”

The president then said that one of the necessary instruments would be a UN platform for the promotion of an exchange with representatives of the persecuted religious groups. In addition, the United Nations need to work towards establishing an international tribunal dedicated to the issue of the impunity of groups ranging from Boko Haram to Al-Shabaab and IS from prosecution for acts of religious violence.

Last year alone, the pontifical foundation Aid to the Church in Need granted more than 100 million euros to over 5,000 projects in 139 countries worldwide to help Christians in need.

Matthias Böhnke (ACN International)

Pope Francis blesses 6,000 rosaries for Syria

Pope Francis blesses 6,000 rosaries for Syria - © Servizio Fotografico - Vatican Media

As part of a spiritual initiative by ACN to comfort the grieving

Pope Francis blesses 6,000 rosaries for Syria
Pope Francis blesses 6,000 rosaries for Syria – © Servizio Fotografico – Vatican Media

On 15 August, the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Pope Francis, during the Angelus prayer in St Peter’s Square, blessed 6,000 rosaries destined for Syria. They will be given to people in Syria who have had relatives or family members abducted or murdered during the civil war. This is part of an ecumenical initiative of the international Catholic charity and pontifical foundation “Aid to the Church in Need” (ACN) together with Catholic and Orthodox churches in the country.

“The rosaries, made on the initiative of ACN, are a sign of my closeness to our brothers and sisters in Syria,” Pope Francis said. “We continue to pray the Rosary for peace in the Middle East and around the world.”

The plan is to distribute the rosaries among a number of different Christian communities in Syria on 15 September, the feast of Our Lady of Sorrows. The motto of the ecumenical initiative is “Comfort my people”, and aims to commemorate the victims of the recent civil war and offer spiritual support and comfort to the bereaved.

An earlier meeting with the Pope at the Vatican guesthouse Santa Marta, was attended by the Executive President of ACN, Dr. Thomas Heine-Geldern, as well as several directors of European ACN-national office. At the audience, Pope Francis praised the work of the charity and this ecumenical initiative: “I thank ACN for everything you do. When we pray with the people in Syria, we come close to them. “

Pope Francis blesses 6,000 rosaries for Syria
Pope Francis blesses 6,000 rosaries for Syria – Aid to the Church in Need

ACN President Thomas Heine Geldern said he was deeply moved by the Pope’s support for this prayer campaign. “The Holy Father has on several occasions expressed his support and approval for our commitment in Syria and the Middle East”, he said. “And he has done so again today. For the families of the war victims, these blessed rosaries are a sign that the Pope and the entire Church are with them, praying for them and standing beside them. This is a great source of comfort.”

Ever since the beginning of the conflict in 2011, the support for the suffering people of Syria has been a priority for ACN, as President Heine-Geldern emphasised.

Thanks to the generosity of ACN’s benefactors, the charity has been able during this time to support a total of 850 separate projects for the Syrian people, at a total cost of 35 million Euros, thereby enabling many Christian families to remain in Syria, rather than emigrating.

From the outset, this help has been offered in close ecumenical collaboration with Catholic and Orthodox Church leaders – and the same is true of the present, most recent initiative, the ACN president explained. “Money is not enough”, he said. “Alongside  material aid, the people in Syria need spiritual and moral support, for they are living through a desperate situation. Together with our benefactors around the world, ACN is committed to helping them.”

The “Comfort my People” initiative will take place in a number of different towns in Syria on 15 September this year.

There will be commemorative prayers and processions, the Christian faithful will pray for the dead and for the consolation and support of their families. Those who have lost family members who were abducted or killed during the war will be given the rosaries, which were made in Bethlehem and Damascus and blessed by Pope Francis as a special sign of spiritual support. And on 15 September Pope Francis will again associate himself with the initiative, by blessing an icon of Our Lady of Sorrows, Comforter of the Syrians.

Tobias Lehner (ACN International)

Hundreds march in solidarity for bishops amidst sedition complaint

UPDATED as of August 5, 2019

On July 31, the Archdiocese of Lingayen-Dagupan organized a Mass and a candle-lighting ceremony to express solidarity for the faithful leaders accused of inciting sedition, cyber libel, libel, and obstruction of justice. Involved in the sedition charge are the Vice President of the Philippines and 35 others, including four bishops and several priests. The bishops cited include Archbishop Socrates Villegas, President of ACN Philippines and Member of the Supervisory Board of the International Foundation and retired Bishop Teodoro Bacani,  Bishop Honesto Ongtioco of Cubao and Bishop Pablo David of Caloocan.

Held at the Cathedral of Saint John the Evangelist in Dagupan, hundreds of people marched in prayer after Mass on Wednesday in support of Archbishop Villegas and the other three bishops innocently charged.

Jonathan Luciano, ACN National Director for the Philippines, attended the celebration of the Holy Eucharist and the candle-lighting procession together with ACN volunteers as sign of solidarity with his president.

The sedition complaint was filed on 18 July by the Philippine National Police Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (PNP-CIDG). This was in connection to the “Ang Totoong Narco List”, a video series by a man named Peter Joemel Advincula, more widely known as “Bikoy”. In the videos, he linked President Duterte, a few family members and numerous constituents to alleged involvement in illegal drug syndicates. “Bikoy” also confessed that he was a former member of a large syndicate himself. But on surrendering himself to police custody, “Bikoy” retracted his statements and stated the opposite. He claimed that everything in the videos was scripted and orchestrated by the opposing Liberal Party in connivance with a leaders of religious organizations. In a press briefing, he cited Archbishop Socrates Villegas and Bishop Pablo David as among those behind the plot to oust the President.

Expressing his concern and sadness the director of ACN said: “Around  the world, cases of religious persecution continue to rise and become more rampant. Ambushes, murders, bombings – these are only a few of the violent means used by persecutors. A subtle yet more dangerous method, however, continues to exist. This comes in the form of political persecution, now directed to innocent servants of the Catholic Church”. 

“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me”
(John 10:27)

“As emphasized by the Pope’s prayer intentions for July, we continue to pray and hope that the government and the respectful officials involved will wield justice with truth and integrity. As the preliminary investigations against the accused commence on August 9, we call for vigilance. Let us stand in solidarity and unity in our prayers. We pray for the safety of the bishops and all those wrongfully charged, and that they find strength in these trying times,” concluded Jonathan Luciano.

Boko Haram strikes back in Cameroon – Amputee women, the new tactic of terror

Boko Haram strikes back in Cameroon - Amputee women, the new tactic of terror

On the night of July 29, members of the terrorist group Boko Haram attacked the town of Gagalari [not Kalagari as it puts in some media] in the diocese of Yagoua in the Far North region of Cameroon.

According to information received today from local sources by the ACN Foundation, the terrorists seem to have changed their strategy but not in any way diminished their violence. “They arrived during the night, entered the houses one by one and kidnapped the women. Only the women. They took them to the outskirts and amputated one ear of each of the victims. Then they released them threatening them and telling them that they would return, that this is the first touch intervention, but others will follow. It is terrifying. “

The victims were found and picked up by the army and then transferred 260 kilometers away where they could be medically assisted.

The amputation of an ear is a way of pressurizing and terrifying the inhabitants of the area who, according to the terrorists, “listen to the government and the voices of those who do not follow the extremist ideology of Boko Haram.”

For security reasons the men do not sleep inside the houses and there is even a Vigilance Committee, “but it was no use in this repulsive surprise attack. The women were dragged out of their homes before the eyes of their children.”

The population, especially children and women, is very traumatized and terrified. “But what are they going to do? They are simple and very poor people who live from agriculture and right now in the rainy season they are waiting for the harvest. Where are they going to go? “The town is 120 kilometers from the nearest parish.

/ Maria Lozano – ACN International

Christians in Pakistan living between hope and fear

Christians in Pakistan living between hope and fear

The Catholic Church in Pakistan is important for the country, says Reinhard Backes. He recently visited Pakistan for the fourth time as permanent section leader of the Pontifical Foundation Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), in order to inform himself about the situation of the Christians and the projects that ACN supports. “With more than 200 million inhabitants, Pakistan is in sixth place on the list of the most populous countries,” he explained on his return.

“Although the overwhelming majority of the population are Muslims and only some two per cent are Christians, they still amount to at least three million people in the country.”

According to Reinhard Backes’ account, the Church in Pakistan is a young church. “The majority of all worshippers at divine services in Pakistan are children, youths and young adults. But the Catholic Church in the country is a young church, not only in terms of its members, but also when viewed historically.” Unfortunately, due to the difficult social and economic situation, young people in the country hardly have any perspective, he says.

Further, not only for Christians and other religious minorities, but also for Muslims, the controversial blasphemy law represents a major problem because it is sometimes misused in order to pursue and oppress dissenters, says Backes. Although, some weeks ago, Asia Bibi – one of the best-known victims of the blasphemy law – was able to escape the death penalty and depart for Canada after nearly nine years of uncertainty, Christians are still in prison on account of this law.

More than 224 Christians have suffered from the arbitrariness of this law since its introduction in 1986, he confirms. “Even though there are signs of hope, the Christians in the country are constantly living with a degree of insecurity.”

The mood in the country, where Islam is the state religion, is marked by religious intolerance. Over again, there are dead and injured in attacks and assaults, says Backes. He was particularly impressed by his meeting with young people who had experienced a serious attack on two Christian churches in Lahore four years ago. “Sakinder was at prayer in one of the churches and lost an eye in the explosions. Antashia had been singing in the choir at the service.

When she went outside, body parts were scattered in the street. Qandeel told me that, despite the severe attacks, the congregation has grown closer together and that many subsequently joined the security service. They all do it on a voluntary basis and are proud to be able to serve the Church.”

During his journeys through the country, Reinhard Backes visited numerous projects that ACN has funded in recent years. These include the Joti Pastoral Centre in Mirpur Khas in Hyderabad Diocese, as well as the parish of St. Peter in Jhugian Jhuhid (Lahore Archdiocese) where Catholics live today who were violently driven out of the so-called Joseph Colony in 2013. ACN is helping them to develop the new parish there.

In the words of Reinhard Backes, an indispensable source of hope and confidence in Pakistan’s patriarchal society is the involvement of Christian women. “In many places, nuns perform enormously important pastoral and social work.” He mentions as examples the Mother Teresa Sisters in Faisalabad, or the Franciscan nuns in Dar-ul-Sukun, a social facility whose name means “House of Peace and Love”.

There, with great devotion, a nun from Karachi has been caring for neglected children for the last 50 years. “They care for the weakest in society, orphans and persons with physical or mental disabilities. These initiatives, which are being driven forward by Christians in all dioceses, are mainly carried out by women,” reports Reinhard Backes, for whom Pakistan is not only a country of fear and violence, but also of hope and charity.

In the last two years alone, the Pontifical Foundation Aid to the Church in Need has funded nearly 100 projects in Pakistan to the tune of more than 1.5 million euros, in particular giving aid for the construction of churches and other ecclesiastical facilities, support for priests, seminarians and nuns, as well as the acquisition of Christian literature.

/ Matthias Böhnke (ACN International)

“Do not be afraid, little flock”

On 7 May, immediately following his stay in Bulgaria, where Pope Francis is scheduled to visit the cities of Sofia and Rakovski on 5 and 6 May, the leader of the Catholic Church will travel to neighbouring North Macedonia. North Macedonia became the official name of the former Republic of Macedonia in February.

During his 10-hour sojourn in the capital of Skopje, Pope Francis will first have a meeting with the president, prime minister and other representatives of the government and nation and then visit a memorial site for Mother Teresa, a native of Skopje, to meet with people living in poverty. At midday he will celebrate Holy Mass on Makedonija Square. Pope Francis will then meet with young people as well as priests and religious in the afternoon before flying back to Rome in the evening.

“Do not be afraid, little flock” – the motto chosen for the papal visit reflects the situation of the Catholics living in the country that was once part of Yugoslavia: only about two per cent of the country’s approximately two million inhabitants are Catholic. When compared to the 1.2 million Orthodox and more than half a million Muslims, it is truly only a little flock that feels “like a family”, according to the head of the North Macedonian section of ACN International, Magda Kaczmarek. As Kiro Stojanov, bishop of the only bishopric in North Macedonia, stressed, this makes the visit of their pope all the more important for the small number of faithful. “We have 15 parishes and several succursal churches with a total of 22 priests,” the bishop explained the current situation of the country. “Our faithful come from different ethnic groups, most of them Macedonians, Croats or Albanians.”

“The religions coexist peacefully for the most part and the religious sisters do wonderful work in the children’s and youth ministry,” Magda Kaczmarek reported. She is more concerned about the widespread poverty and weak economic performance of the country; for many of its inhabitants, farming is the only source of income. She then mentioned the emigration of large numbers of young and educated people, those who could help the country grow economically, to other countries. She pointed out the country’s low birth rate with 1.5 children per woman and, at about 30 per cent, its extremely high unemployment rate. “If politics cannot create better living conditions and ensure that the youth have prospects, then the country is heading into dark times,” Magda Kaczmarek gave voice to her concerns.

She therefore believes that North Macedonia is looking forward to the papal visit not only as a source of religious impetus to stabilise the faith. Rather, the country is hoping that Pope Francis will appeal to the political and economic policymakers during his visit to help create a more stable future for North Macedonia.

Background:

Last year, ACN International granted a total of 76 400 euros for projects in North Macedonia (which was still the Republic of Macedonia then), in particular for the construction and renovation of churches. A top priority at the moment is the construction of a new church in Kumanovo, the country’s second largest city. In addition, ACN provides subsistence aid for religious.

ACN International

Drama at Notre-Dame: watch, pray, do not be discouraged

On Monday 15 April, the first day of Holy Week, the cathedral of Notre-Dame de Paris was ravaged by a terrible fire. This was a drama which invited us to pray unceasingly, and without being discouraged.

Shortly before 8pm, the burning spire collapsed into the nave of the cathedral. The fire, which had broken out around 6.50pm in the timbers of the roof, was overcome by about 3.30am, according to the Paris firefighters. Two-thirds of the roof has been destroyed. Ravaged by flames in the night of 15-16 April, the building – the most visited in Europe, welcoming between 12 and 14 million visitors and pilgrims each year – had stood through history and survived countless events, from the French Revolution to the Second World War. An enquiry into ‘involuntary destruction by fire’ has been opened.

“The shocking sight of Notre-Dame in flames reminds us of the dramatic reality lived by too many Christians throughout the world”, stated Fr Yves Genouville, French ecclesial assistant to Aid to the Church in Need. “But at the end of a night of sorrow, a striking image: in the midst of smoke and ash, despite the chaos resulting from the flames, the Cross appears, intact. The glorious Cross of Christ, at the foot of which so many pilgrims have come to leave their prayers. The Cross of Christ, at the foot of which Mgr Fridolin Ambongo, Mgr Theodore Mascarenhas, Sr Mona Adhem, and so many others came, during the 2018 ‘Nuits de Temoins’, to leave the sorrows and hopes of a Church faced with the folly of Evil. The Cross of Christ, today weighed down, at the foot of which stood Mary, his Mother, Our Lady, to whom the cathedral of the Paris archdiocese is dedicated.

While this fire has joined the long list of the dramas undergone by the Church in France, ACN, an international pontifical foundation, has received messages of compassion from the whole world. The universal church is united by prayer to the diocese of Paris, and to the Church in France. “Our heart is weeping with all of France, and with the Christians of the world: we are praying for you”, wrote Sr Mona. “We are praying for you, we are praying for France’, Mgr Mascarenhas assured us. “We feel your sorrow. Your loss is our loss, your sorrow our sorrow.”

In a statement the French Bishops’ Conference invited “Catholics to always remain the living stones of the Church, by living the mystery of the death and resurrection of Christ, the source of our hope.”

Guided by this Hope, at the start of this Holy Week, as we approach the paschal solemnities, ACN invites all to watch and pray, for the Church in France and for the universal Church; to watch and pray at the foot of the cross, at the side of Our Lady, and without discouragement.

ACN International

Humanitarian crisis in Venezuela – “We are simply watching people die”

The heartrending testimony of a Venezuelan doctor which we give below is a reflection of the terrible problems people are still suffering from in this South American country, and of the humanitarian crisis resulting from the scarcity and high cost of medicines in particular. It comes on top of the failures in the national electricity supply system, which is affecting the hospitals and hampering the necessary treatment of patients.

In an audio message sent to the international Catholic pastoral charity and pontifical foundation Aid to the Church in Need (ACN International), a young doctor, her voice trembling with emotion and close to tears, speaks of her sense of impotence at being unable to save lives, owing to the lack of medicines.

She describes how, during her shift at the Central Hospital, she attended a little girl suffering acute peritonitis, after having already arrived at the hospital with a ruptured appendix. As a result they had to apply the necessary treatment to extract the festering liquid, but they had no antibiotics for her subsequent post-operative treatment.

“Her Papa told me, with tears in his eyes, that he could not continue buying the medication, because each treatment cost 50,000 bolivars, and she needed three doses a day”, the doctor explains.

At present the minimum monthly salary in Venezuela is 20,000 bolivars, so that the father of this little girl would have had to work and save up almost 8 months salary in order to be able to purchase a single day’s treatment with the antibiotic.

In her moving account, the doctor describes how, after cleaning up the wound, she went looking for the little girl’s father to explain to him the gravity of his daughter’s condition, and found him kneeling on the floor, weeping.

“On emerging from the operating theatre, after completing the procedure, I went looking for her daddy, but couldn’t find him, because he was kneeling down, weeping in a corner, with his head against the wall.” She continues, with anguish in her voice, “I feel as though we are simply watching people die.” And she also berates the country’s political leaders for their inefficient work. “I don’t understand the politicians. This is affecting us all… We doctors can put up with being without light and without water, we can find a way of working around it, but I cannot bear to see our poorest people suffering and burying their children.”

On Tuesday, 2 April the Venezuelan Bishops’ Conference published a message in which they reaffirm “the dignity of the human person and his inalienable rights” and in their turn denounce the lack of respect for human rights and the “crimes against humanity” to which the Venezuelan people are subjected, including “the deliberate imposition of (harmful) conditions of life, such as the depriving of access to food and medication”.

“Unfortunately this has been happening in our own country, beneath the complacent gaze of the authorities who have the responsibility of watching over the respect and defence of human rights”, the bishops state in their message.

The bishops urge a redoubling of prayers for Venezuela, in order to achieve “the necessary conversion”. And they appeal to the Virgin Mary to “accompany our people on the Way of the Cross they are now walking, in the hope of the Paschal liberation that was achieved by her Son Jesus Christ.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bishops speak out over electricity blackout in Venezuela

 “In this time of legal darkness, there has been added a literal darkness”

The political and economic crisis that is ravaging Venezuela has become even worse in recent days as a result of the electricity blackout that has affected the whole country, 23 different states, since March 7 this year. According to information provided by Caritas to the international Catholic pastoral charity and pontifical foundation Aid to the Church in Need (ACN International), the electricity crisis has affected almost every other area of the supply chain, including water, gasoline, transport, communications and the hospitals.

“Sources tell us that the problem originated as a result of a breakdown in the central hydroelectric generating station which provides energy for 80% of the country”, the Caritas report explains. Nonetheless, the authorities of the government-controlled National Executive allege that the emergency was caused by “electronic warfare” as a result of a “terrorist cyber-attack” from abroad.

In different statements, gathered by ACN, most of the Venezuelan bishops have now spoken out in response to this grave crisis, which has left some communities without electricity for over 130 hours now, provoking chaos and consternation among the population, social tensions and looting, as well as shutting down schools and businesses.

Archbishop Ulises Gutiérrez of Ciudad Bolívar stated that “the country has been left in the dark, with blackouts throughout the country for over five days now. They have affected the hospitals and clinics, the public services, communications, banking activities, paralysing the country as never before in its history. A significant number of our fellow citizens have died through not getting the medical attention they needed, as a result of the lack of electric power.”

The Caritas report indicates that according to information from the organisation Médicos Unidos, some 20 individuals have died throughout the country, as a result of the electricity outage in the hospitals.

Bishop Mario Moronta of San Cristóbal stated that the authorities, “far from listening to the just complaints of the people, continue to harden the hearts of those who hold in their hands the solution to the difficulties, and above all to the central problem for which these same people are clamouring – namely a change of political direction and not the imposition of an unacceptable system that is not at the service of the men and women of Venezuela.”

For his part Bishop Ernesto Romero of the apostolic vicariate of Tucupita, declared that “the paralysis of the electricity supply throughout almost the whole of the country is nothing more than a demonstration of the indifference, laziness, lack of maintenance and incompetence of the national government.”

The emergency has led people to resort to desperate and unsafe measures, such as collecting water from unclean sources, eating partly rotten food and undergo risky mobilization.

Bishop Polito Rodríguez of the diocese of San Carlos announced that “Venezuela is today confronting the worst humanitarian crisis in its history as a republic; human rights are being violated with impunity. In essence, freedom and equality have been disregarded by those who are governing.”

Bishop José Manuel Romero Barrios of El Tigre has also spoken out, saying that the life of the Venezuelan people “has been subjected to a growing structural violence which, while not actually physically attacking the humanity of its people, is nonetheless expressed in the failure of those responsible for the management of society to attend to the most basic needs of the population.”

Speaking in similar terms, Archbishop Jesús González de Zárate of Cumaná called on people to raise their voices “to denounce the lies, the injustice, the use of violence, the fanatical desire to divide and control us, the repression and persecution of legitimate protest and all those things within our society that are contrary to the plan of God.”

Bishop Ángel Caraballo, the apostolic administrator of the diocese of Cabimas, added that “in this time of legal darkness, of darkness in relation to social security, darkness in relation to food, darkness in regard to civic peace, there has been added a literal darkness, an additional element which simply adds to the humiliation suffered by the Venezuelan people, through the fault of the regime, which has forgotten about people in order to sustain a dominant political system that has brought only tragedy, death, unrest and misery where ever it has been implemented.”

Bishop Oswaldo Azuaje of the diocese of Trujillo deplored the current situation and called on his people to continue “looking for the Lord in every brother who needs us. The days of the blackout were an opportunity to witness great examples of solidarity… in the sharing of food and drinking water, gasoline for the vehicles and many other examples of people sharing their sufferings and joys together.”

The message of the bishops has brought words of relief and hope to the Venezuelan people in the midst of the dark turbulence they are currently living through. Caritas announced that it will continue to actively pursue its service of “Ollas Comunitarias” (“community cooking pots”, i.e. shared meals service) in the various different dioceses, and also its programme of “medication banks”.

 

ACN International