Clerical kidnappings, elections, and COVID dominate Catholic news in Americas

Clerical kidnappings, elections, and COVID dominate Catholic news in Americas

Informal housing spreads across the hillsides in Jalousie, Haiti. (Credit: USAID.)

On Sunday, seven religious - two nuns and five priests - were kidnaped in Haiti and their captors are asking for a million dollars in ransom. In Venezuela, the bishops are urging the government to stop delaying the COVID-19 vaccination campaign, and in Ecuador, the bishops are asking the newly elected leadership to "govern wisely, legislate fairly and control with transparency."

ROME – On Sunday, seven religious – two nuns and five priests – were kidnaped in Haiti and their captors are asking for a million dollars in ransom. In Venezuela, the bishops are urging the government to stop delaying the COVID-19 vaccination campaign, and in Ecuador, the bishops are asking the newly elected leadership to “govern wisely, legislate fairly and control with transparency.”

Haiti

Five Haitian and two French religious workers were kidnapped on Sunday in Haiti. The group – which includes four Haitian priests, a Haitian nun, a French priest and a French nun – was kidnapped during the morning in Croix-des-Bouquets, near the capital Port-au-Prince.

After the news broke, the French bishops conference released a statement expressing their “deep concern over the kidnapping of seven people in Haiti.” They urged the kidnappers “to free the men and women of peace they have kidnapped and not add further hatred where poverty and insecurity already exist.”

Haiti is the second poorest country in the Americas and has long been plagued by gang violence and political instability, and there have been protests and demonstrations in recent weeks.

“The great poverty of this country combined with political disputes has increased insecurity, which has already been very pervasive for many years,” says the French statement released Monday. “The Church of France has a particular closeness to the Church of Haiti and to this whole country. In this moment of anguish for our kidnapped brothers and sisters, they want to assure the Catholics of Haiti and all its inhabitants of our support and our prayers.”

The kidnappers are demanding a ransom of $1 million, according to the spokesman for the Haitian Bishops’ Conference.

“This new case is a reflection of the collapse of the security apparatus of the State and the country. No one seems to be safe anymore,” Father Renold Antoine, who is in Haiti, told Fides, the information service of the Pontifical Mission Societies.

“Outlawed groups continue to sow fear and sadness in the hearts of the population,” he said.

The Conference of Haitian Religious (CHR) reported in a statement that three other people, family members of a local priest who wasn’t taken, were also kidnapped.

“The CHR expresses its deep regret but also its anger at the inhumane situation we have been going through for more than a decade,” the Haitian religious wrote.

Venezuela

Venezuela’s bishops are calling for a national COVID-19 vaccination campaign after the government of Nicolas Maduro extended lockdown measures due to a spike in infections.

Venezuela now faces a “worst case scenario” of limited vaccine availability, combined with an increase in infections following the relaxation of quarantine measures during the Christmas and Carnival holidays, according to experts.

On Friday, the bishops released a statement: “motivated by our pastoral ministry in favor of the people of God, we echo their cries regarding the need to resolve the issue of vaccination against COVID-19 as soon as possible.”

The prelates argue that vaccinating the population is an urgency that “must be framed in the call to practice the commandment of brotherly love, which the Lord Jesus left us.”

The increase in coronavirus cases in Latin America’s poorest country, whose health system has been in crisis for years, has led to a surge of fatalities. Among them are at least 19 priests, three of whom were bishops.

Addressing the national government and health authorities, the bishops urge them to think “about the good of the people they should serve” and try to find an agreement in order to obtain the best vaccines, and apply them “to the entire population without exception or discrimination.”

“We cannot wait any longer,” they wrote. “The human person is above political diatribes, because the life of every person is worthy and sacred.”

Ecuador

Soon after the country’s electoral council called Sunday’s presidential elections in favor of conservative former banker Guillermo Lasso, the local bishops released a statement calling for “transparency and truthfulness” of the results, and for all – candidates and citizens – to accept them with “dignity and patriotism.”

Lasso won over leftist Andres Arauz, the preferred candidate of former President Rafael Correa.

The Ecuadorian prelates invited the country to overcome “ideological fanaticism” and extremist positions, and called for the new administration to “govern with wisdom, legislate with justice and supervise with transparency. ”

“Our call is to always be close to the population, sharing and listening to their needs, especially the most vulnerable people, in such a way that together they find the best solutions,” they said.

Addressing the newly elected officials, the bishops remind them that they’ve made a commitment to “give the best of themselves, so that the aspirations of our people are met, as was promised during the election campaign.”

In their appeal they ask those who are elected to “assume power as a service to the community” and “not as an instrument of domination, social prestige or personal, family and partisan privileges. The poor are not an object or means to conquer power and perpetuate it.”

The bishops also reiterate their call to respect life as a fundamental human right as well as the right to comprehensive education and to decent work, therefore “we vindicate our right to raise our prophetic voice to denounce the neglect of the weak.”

Follow Inés San Martín on Twitter: @inesanma

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