- Jan 23, 2021
In the aftermath of Sunday’s vote for Maduro’s new constituent assembly – boycotted by the opposition – the government seized opposition leaders and continued its killing of protesters in the streets. The Venezuelan bishops stood with the opposition, and with the protesters. Now the Vatican has forcefully called on the government to back down.
In a statement released on Friday, the Vatican called on the Government of Nicolas Maduro to consider the “avoidance or suspension of ongoing initiatives such as the new constitutional assembly,” which would give the president the power to re-write the constitution and govern by decree. The Holy See also asked for the security forces to abstain from “excessive and disproportionate use of violence.”
Days ahead of a national referendum called by President Nicolas Maduro to rewrite the national constitution, Venezuela’s Catholic bishops have called the exercise “unconstitutional as well as unnecessary, inconvenient and damaging to the Venezuelan people.” They also reminded members of the Venezuelan military that their first obligation is to the country’s people.
Over seven million people voted on Sunday in a a symbolic referendum organized by the opposition. Pro-government militias shot at a church where Cardinal Jorge Urosa Savino was saying Mass, forcing him into lock-down, together with 200 faithful. One woman was killed and many wounded.
Clashes between protesters and the country’s security forces have left at least 91 dead in the past 100 days. Addressing the army and the police, the bishops ask them to serve the people, not a regime, and remind them that they will have to “answer for your acts both to human and divine justice.”
Addressing the crowd gathered for his weekly Sunday Angelus, Pope Francis appealed for an end to the violence in Venezuela and for a peaceful and democratic solution to the crisis. Some 80 people have been killed in the last three months during peaceful anti-government rallies, four of them on Saturday.