ROME – At the end of their general assembly, the bishops of Peru released a statement calling on the political class to avoid “every kind of authoritarianism.”
The statement came as recently elected left-wing President Pedro Castillo waited to see if the opposition-led Congress would green light or reject his cabinet.
Castillo came to office after a deeply divisive election against right-wing rival Keiko Fujimori. He won the June 6 election by a margin of just 44,000 votes.
Though he has described himself as a Catholic and a devotee of the Virgin Mary, his party, “Perú Libre” (“Free Peru”) is Marxist. This is the first time that the former school teacher holds public office.
“In the search for the common good and democracy, it does not help to use the political mechanisms of exasperating, exacerbating and polarizing, but on the contrary to use those mechanisms provided for in our Constitution and the legal system in force, to achieve the aforementioned ends,” the bishops wrote in a statement published Wednesday afternoon.
“Let us direct democracy towards freedom, avoiding all authoritarianism. Towards equality, combating all forms of discrimination and poverty.”
The statement has 12 points, in which the Peruvian prelates give an overview of the situation of the country, opening with their deep concern for the uncertainty created by the “extreme political polarization” that affects all social areas, and in particular the lives of the poorest and most marginalized.
They called for reconciliation in the country, which they pointed out is suffering due to an increase in the “historical neglect of the state of thousands of compatriots in the peripheries of the country.” They warn that this situation “accentuates the great social inequalities and produces pain and resentment.”
“Intolerance, indifference and discrimination should not continue to prevail in our coexistence,” the bishops said.
The bishops also spoke about the COVID-19 pandemic, with the looming threat of a third wave in Peru, and which has killed over 198,000 people. They urge Castillo to provide the country with a greater quantity of vaccines, so that they reach the entire population.
“We urge the government to provide the necessary vaccines for all, and at the same time we call on all Peruvians to get vaccinated, as an expression of responsibility to themselves and to others,” the bishops said.
They also spoke about other aspects of the crisis, including how the closing of schools is affecting the population.
“Parents, who are primarily responsible for their children’s education, continue to be concerned that virtual education has not achieved many of their learning objectives. Many students in extreme poverty have not been able to access digital classes,” the bishops’ statement says.
The bishops also “reiterate” their availability to dialogue with government authorities, since “to build a Peru of all bloods, we must love and serve our Fatherland more than our own ideas.”
“For this, we appeal to the responsible commitment of all citizens and particularly governmental authorities to work together for the common good through dialogue.”
The bishops of Peru held their 119th Plenary Assembly from Aug. 17 to 20, holding both face-to-face and virtual meetings. They dedicated the first day to synodality, discussing among other things the Synodal Assembly that the Church in Latin American is currently preparing.