Source: Vatican Media/Venezuelan Bishops Conference
The Bishops of Venezuela have released a Message for Lent in which they describe the difficult time the nation is living as "a desert" from which they will emerge transformed.
"Lent represents for us, the Venezuelan people, who are living a difficult time, a moment in which we must cross the desert of our lives" the message reads.
Released by Bishop José Trinidad Fernandez, Secretary General of the Venezuelan Bishops' Conference, the 2019 Lenten message says the people of Venezuela are like the Israelites who journeyed through the desert when they fled Egypt, to be liberated by God. Bishop Fernandez says: "Lent is a time to come out of slavery and misery, to meet with Him as the people of God, a faithful people capable of transformation that shares in the gifts that Christ grants, because by living in justice and peace, we build a better world."
On 4 February the Venezuelan Bishops' Conference, Confederation of Religious Men and Women of Venezuela and the National Council of the Laity issued a joint statement appealing for the authorities to hold "free and legitimate elections to retake the path to democracy," to allow the entry of humanitarian aid into the country and stop the repression.
The statement said Venezuelan Catholics, facing a "painful situation of injustice and suffering," are searching for a "peaceful and transparent" transition that will lead to "free and legitimate elections to retake the path to democracy, restoring the rule of law, and fostering the reconstruction of the social fabric, economic productivity, morality in the country and reconciliation among all Venezuelans."
The statement called for a transition toward elections undertaken "in a peaceful manner in accordance with the National Constitution" to avoid more suffering. "In this crucial moment in our country's history, we invite the entire Venezuelan people to give their best, everyone in their sphere of work and action, so that working from unity, solidarity and ethical responsibility, in a calm spirit, we may seek the common good and tirelessly work for the reconstruction of democracy and of our entire homeland, avoiding bloodshed."
In addition to the call for new elections, the statement demanded that the "necessary permits be granted to make available humanitarian aid, to mitigate the impact of the crisis on the nation's most vulnerable."
"Caritas Venezuela and other national Catholic aid organisations commit ourselves to continue the service that we have been providing with equity, inclusion, transparency and effectiveness," the statement concludes.
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