ROSARIO, Argentina — Pope Francis on Tuesday sent a video to the priests of Venezuela, encouraging them to work together to overcome the difficulties that “plague so many of our brothers and sisters in Venezuela and throughout the world.”

The current context, Francis said, calls for pastors to act like the apostles did after returning from the mission Jesus had sent them: They came together to share their experiences, what they had done and taught, and then prayed.

“We cannot act alone, isolated, self-sufficient, with hidden agendas,” he said. “It is essential that we always return to Jesus, that we meet in sacramental fraternity, to tell him and tell each other ‘everything we have done and taught,’ with the conviction that it is not our doing but God’s.”

“He is the one who saves us, we are only instruments in his hand.”

The pope’s video message, released by the Vatican’s press office, was sent to a virtual gathering of Venezuela’s bishops and priests, taking place Jan. 19-20. The meeting opened with the pope’s video.

The webpage of the local bishops conference describes the meeting as an encounter of “fraternal dialogue” to promote a space of sharing experiences during this time of “health emergency due to the pandemic.” 

The summit comes after a consultation period that began in October and concluded Jan. 12. The dioceses throughout the country were invited to hold meetings online to reflect on a series of questions aimed at understanding the experiences lived during the pandemic, to make suggestions for improving pastoral work during this time, and also make “post-pandemic” projections.

Two priests from each diocese, in addition to the bishop, are taking part in the online national encounter. The priests were chosen by the diocesan clergy.

The virtual encounter “is an opportunity to tend to the needs of the Church in Venezuela from a place of fraternal listening to those who accompany the people of God in a spirit of service, from the priestly ministry.”

A report of the conclusions will be published in the first days of February.

In his message, Pope Francis called on the clergy to share their experiences, fatigue, uncertainties and hopes with one another, in the conviction that this will help them better carry out the work of the Church, “which is the Lord’s work.”

“I thank you for your witness of love and service to the Venezuelan brothers and sisters, manifested in your care for the sick, to whom you have brought the power of the word of God and the Eucharist; manifested in their accompaniment to the medical personnel, paramedics and volunteers who assist patients in this pandemic; in his diligence to help the poor and excluded, for those who lack what is necessary to survive and get ahead with dignity. Thank you, thank you for all this,” the pope said.

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