Pope Francis knows. He knows about each of the around 70 Venezuelans that have been killed during protests, the hunger and the devastating humanitarian crisis that Venezuela suffers through. He knows because he was informed today in detail by the leadership of the Venezuelan Bishops’ Conference (CEV) during a 30 minute private audience in The Vatican.
“He was very touched by our description of the cases reported over the last couple of days and he offered us his full trust and support,” said Mons. Diego Padrón, president of the CEV.
“We don’t represent a side, neither the government nor the opposition, because we are interested in helping the people. We came to present to the Pope the situation of the Venezuelan people, of those who are close to the government or those who dissent, and we do not differentiate between them in this regard,” he explained. It was an honest and open conversation in which the bishops spoke freely and said all they needed to say.
The Venezuelan bishops gave the Pope two documents. The first is a dossier of the deaths registered since April 1st, when the protests started. The second is an overview of the pastoral exhortations and activities lead by the local church between 2016-2017. It also includes a report prepared by Caritas which has a special focus on Venezuelans malnutrition and lack of medicines.
He was very touched by our description of the cases reported over the last couple of days and he offered us his full trust and support
During the meeting, Mons. Padrón openly criticized Maduro, reminding the Pope that the Venezuelan president refuses to accept the opening of a humanitarian channel. “The government wants to remain in power at all costs, it has the will to have people subdued, silenced and to prevent them from protesting. This is achieved by leaving them without food and medicines, by keeping them occupied in finding solutions to their daily needs: sick and hungry people who suffer and can’t stand up.”
The meeting with the Pope, which was requested by the CEV, also served to quell rumors about a split between the Vatican and the church in Venezuela. “We reiterated our full communion with [the Pope], and he ratified his full support to us,” said the Mons. Padrón.
The unity with the Vatican was confirmed by Cardinal Jorge Urosa Savino, who also attended the private audience. In an interview with Catholic news agency Zenit, he stated that the “Holy Father is the Pope of everyone, and no one can expect him to favor a political group.”
The bishops also shared a working lunch with the Vatican’s Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, and met in the afternoon with officials from Caritas Internationalis. As expected, the Vatican did not provide details of the meetings and left all the communication to the leaders of the Venezuelan church.
The Vatican did release images and footage of the meeting, in which a smiling Francis greeted the Venezuelan bishops.
The CEV delivered.