– The bishop of San Cristóbal has exhorted Nicolas Maduro to consider the suffering of the Venezuelan people amid the ongoing political and humanitarian crisis in the country.

“Open your eyes to see the suffering of the people. Hear the cry of the people who want not only freedom and democracy but to be considered in their dignity,” Bishop Moronta said in an interview this week with ACI Prensa, CNA‘s Spanish language sister agency.

Moronta, who is also the vice president of the Venezuelan bishops’ conference said that “for several years the Venezuelan people have been asking for a change in the social-political and even economic orientation” of the country.”

“The Church has insisted that it is the people who must be listened to. The political, social and economic  eadership must be on the side of the people,” the bishop said.

Regarding Juan Guaidó. President of the National Assembly and recognized as interim president of Venezuela by the United States, member states of the European Union and more than 50 countries, the bishop positively characterized his “leading role” taken up on behalf of the nation’s citizens.

He said that it is the Venezuelan people themselves “who can and should make the changes” in the country.

The bishop said it is the Church’s role to “build bridges” adding that the Church is ready “to do everything that is necessary to have a just and peaceful transition.”

He likewise noted that the Church promotes “not just actions but awareness of the need to improve the situation and the promotion of social leaders who aim at the integral development of the country.”

Moronta also said that the Church has carried out “concrete actions in each diocese in the interest of the people being able to attain a better quality of life,” and highlighted “the communion that has existed between the various Churches in Latin America, especially Cúcuta in Colombia with the Church in Venezuela.”

Finally, he said that with the help of the Church in Colombia and in other countries, aid centers have been created throughout the Diocese of San Cristóbal, which borders the Diocese of Cúcuta in Colombia.

“There are soup kitchens, centers for food, medicine, and pastoral care. We sustain ourselves here with the solidarity of those same people, from Cúcuta, of many church agencies which to allow us to receive food from the community soup kitchens,” he added.

Maduro was sworn in for a second term as president Jan. 10, after winning a contested election in which opposition candidates were barred from running, or imprisoned. Venezuela’s bishops have called his new term illegitimate, and Guaidó, head of the National Assembly, declared himself interim president Jan. 23.
Guaidó has been recognized as Venezuelan president by the US, Canada, much of the European Union, and several Latin American nations.

Since Jan. 21, at least 40 people have died and hundreds have been arrested amid protests against Maduro.

Since Maduro succeeded Hugo Chávez as president of Venezuela in 2013, Venezuela has been marred by violence and social upheaval. Under the socialist government, the country has seen severe shortages and hyperinflation, and millions have emigrated.