Bogota (Agenzia Fides) - Solidarity with the Venezuelan people and their Pastors, two of them threatened by the President of the Republic Nicolás Maduro following their heartfelt homilies of denunciation. This is what the presidency of the Latin American Episcopal Council (Celam) in a statement sent to Agenzia Fides expresses from its headquarters in Colombia.
In particular, on 14 January, Mgr. Víctor Hugo Basabe, titular of the Venezuelan diocese of San Felipe, had denounced the distressing situation of the population by saying: "We do not choose the path of hell chosen by those who deny that in Venezuela people suffer from hunger and malnutrition". And he had lashed out the misgovernment and corruption, adding: "Our destiny as a nation is not in the hands of a man, a government or an empire, but in the hands of God", referring to compatriots who are forced to emigrate. According to the Archbishop, "if anyone has to leave, it is he who is responsible for the corruption that condemns the sick to die for lack of assistance, doctors and medicines" and "those who are involved in trampling the dignity of Venezuelans".
The Bishop could be liable to a crime, the so-called "hate crimes", recently codified by a law passed by the Constituent Assembly and promoted by President Maduro. Faced with this accusation, the Venezuelan Episcopal Conference had replied that "the President has totally distorted the Bishops’ message, especially that of Bishop Basabe, with the aim of accusing the Bishops of crimes", noting that what the Bishops point out corresponds "to the truth of what happens in the country". "The President's words of accusation - notes the Venezuelan episcopate - constitute a new proof of the fact that the law was designed to criminalize all those who cause discomfort to the government". Even Bishop Barabe himself, accused by the Head of State, had replied by saying that in his homily "there was no incitement to hatred or rebellion", and that "the government reacts because we have touched consciences".
On its behalf, Celam, the highest representative organism of the Latin American Episcopate, recalled the affirmation of Jesus Christ: "Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you because of me" (Matt. 5.11). "We call for the respect for religious freedom and freedom of expression as rights consecrated by the Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela" and to "guarantee the physical integrity and full wellbeing of Mgr. Antonio López Castillo, of Mgr. Víctor Hugo Basabe and of all the Venezuelan people", concludes the statement of Celam. (SM) (Agenzia Fides, 25/01/2018)