Photo: EFE, retrieved

Venezuelans aren’t the most religious of Latin Americans, but the Catholic church has always been the largest and most important in the nation pretty much since forever. 71% of Venezuelans identify themselves as Catholic and, besides 24 dioceses, nine archdioceses and four vicariates, the church runs numerous charities, schools — including over 170 dedicated to poor children — and four universities.

But, despite its size and resources, it isn’t immune to the crisis we’re currently going through.

Crime is the most prevalent issue. Through the years, many places of worship that used to be open and welcoming have been forced to remain locked, allowing visitors only for services. Just to show you how large robberies have grown in scope, a few days ago it was reported that a 500 kilogram bell was stolen from a church in Cumaná.

Despite its size and resources, it isn’t immune to the crisis we’re currently going through

Religious services have been forced to adapt, particularly those at odd hours. Easter Vigil, one of the most important liturgical events of Christianity, usually celebrated with a midnight mass, gets pushed as early as 6 pm in some places.

Those attending at regular hours also find themselves threatened. It’s not strange seeing churchgoers in the most dangerous neighborhoods carrying car plugs or batteries, fearing they might get robbed while attending mass. Religious processions, once traversing entire communities, have become a symbolic walk around the sidewalk.

Traditional manifestations, such as Los Diablos Danzantes in the central states, or the different shrines dedicated to Marian apparitions across Venezuela, see the number of visitors dwindle as people become less willing to venture to unsafe places within the country.

And it’s not just about crime. Shortages and inflation have also taken a toll. In the poorest parishes, they have been forced to rescind of the communion, and some even import sacramental bread. Also continuing community-level social programs with the shortage of banknotes, gets harder and the maintenance of shrines is drastically affected, with several churches part of our historical patrimony left to decay.

Police presence has gotten common, particularly during the holidays, with this year’s Holy Week including the presence of the military around the main Catholic places of worship in Caracas. This is also a reminder of the complicated relationship between church and State in Venezuela.

In the poorest parishes, they have been forced to rescind of the communion, and some even import sacramental bread

In the last few years, their relationship has been marked by a set of compromises and affinities that over the years has had moments of tension. The country’s Conference of Bishops generally criticizes the government and supports the opposition, while the Curia remains neutral trying to mediate between factions.

But as the crisis deepens, a pragmatic position is impossible to sustain. Last year, a group of government followers broke into the Santa Teresa Basílica as worshippers were preparing for the Holy Wednesday procession, assaulting Cardinal Jorge Urosa Sabino, Archbishop of Caracas, for his comments on political prisoners during homily. Earlier this year, during a procession of the Divina Pastora, people started to chant “freedom, freedom” against the National Guard, which had a platform to watch the festivities, forcing the military to leave.

These past few weeks tensions have grown between President Maduro and the Conference of Bishops, with the president asking bishops to leave politics out of the pulpit during Holy Week, regarding political comments as “disrespectful” (the Conference responded with a press release).

In times of crisis like these we live in, religion has played a comforting role for many. It may not be entirely logical, and religious conflict has caused much grief in the world.  Yet, in countries like China and the former Soviet Union, powerful regimes couldn’t eradicate the need for belief. It’s interesting to see how Karl Marx called religion “the opium of the people,” also defining it as “the heart of a heartless world, the soul of soulless conditions.”

And though this was an “illusory happiness” for Marx, for those who believe, who feel for a moment the grace and mystery of a heavenly kingdom in a ritual repeated for centuries, it’s the closest taste of salvation at hand.

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24 COMMENTS

  1. And to top it off they have a Communist Pope, the lamentable PapaPancho. An Argentinian leftist dude who loves to visit Cuba, embrace the Castro Assassins, laugh with them and take pictures under a huge Che Guevara poster, but doesn’t even entertain Las Damas de Blanco for ten minutes.

    “El Sumo Ponticife”, ilustre PapaPancho, doesn’t ever criticize Chavismo or talk about Kleptozuela’s enormous disaster. Much less pay a brief visit to the ravaged country in his entire tenure. Viste Che!

    https://www.google.com/search?q=papa+and+Castro&safe=off&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjwmv6PipnaAhVpxoMKHYMpBUQQ_AUICygC#imgrc=yUW4icuXrfcWrM:

  2. ‘In times of crisis like these we live in, religion has played a comforting role for many. It may not be entirely logical, and religious conflict has caused much grief in the world. ‘

    This is condescending.

    Have you analyzed the philosophical arguments for an against the existence of God? Aquinas for example? William Lane Craig as a contemporary? You can substantiate a position where the existence of God is more reasonable than not. It is an entirely logical logical and if you evaluate the counter position of atheism you will find it less reasonable.

    Much conflict is not a property of religion. Humans are the source of conflict, they only need an argument to inflict violence on their fellow man. Communism, Fascism have done more violence in the XX century than al religions, and they were atheists!

  3. The Church works on two levels , at a local level it is a fierce outspoken and staunch opponent of regime abuses ,the bishops council is the voice of the church at this level , at another level it is a world institution of great prestige and credibility which must maintain a good image vs a world where there are people who arent exactly pious catholics , at these second levels it handles itself with diplomacy , trying not to rouse the distrust of regimes which under certain circumstances may use it for transactions or bargains where other world institutions cant be trusted ….but which outcome favours peoples freedom or peaceful existence .Venezuela is one such regime , Cuba is another ……!! This people has understood the need in a world of entertainers and spectacles to provide a good show …say somewhat outre things , to keep people open about a church that so many are dying to condem to show off their hatred of tradition !!

    Lets remember how in Dom Rep Balaguer being the main speaker at Trujillos funeral shed tears at the death of such good man and then on becoming president worked hard and effectively to get the trujillo family to leave the country and allow a democracy to walk its first steps !!
    We love the epic romance of confrontation , makes us feel fierce and noble , but sometimes it helps to play low key , to cultivate images that can help advance an agenda that otherwise would be blocked by people who have a different one…..

    The Church is much more political than people think , and they have equiped themselves with all sort of contacts and relationships which go far inside regimes or institution one would not think would welcome their presence in their affairs…..they are very well informed of whats happening , maybe more than most people in this blog …..!!

    • And you’re not mentioning the money angle?

      Judas sold out Jesus for a little silver. The Church today sells out humanity for billions.

  4. The only church that counts now is the one that openly opposes and undermines the regime’s control con the people, those are the good ones.

    Those that support and endorse the regime are best excomulgated, since they don’t follow the teachings of their own religion.

    ” It may not be entirely logical, and religious conflict has caused much grief in the world. ”

    No, the source of conflicts has always been political control of others.

    “And though this was an “illusory happiness” for Marx…”

    Neither, Marx attacked religion specifically because he needed people to blindly believe in his communist lies from which he build a zealous cult that promises the illusiry happiness in a far-distant future that will NEVER arrive.

    “with the president asking bishops to leave politics out of the pulpit during Holy Week, regarding political comments as “disrespectful””

    That wasn’t like that either, the regime demanded the bishops to be tossed under a flaming bus and to be imprisoned for the maximum penalty because their “hate speech” (Thanks chaveco hate law)

    “… a pragmatic position is impossible to sustain.”

    Stop confusing “pragmatism” with “kneeling to the regime”, the only thing that works in the end is to do everything possible to topple the dictatorship by any means and no matter the cost.

  5. There is a saying in spanish ‘cada ladron juzga segun su condicion’ , another from Proust “all easy women judge other women to be easy women’…..its so cheap to attribute to other people what’s really uppermost in ones own mind …….since Im essentially corruptible and venal then all humans must be have been bitten by the same bug that bites me ……!!

  6. I’m not sure the Catholic Church “turned the other cheek” in Venezuela’s crisis–Urosa, et. al., highly- visible, certainly haven’t.

    • There’s some “debate” about the meaning of “turn the other cheek”. It goes something like pointing out that police use force when necessary to stop crime, and that turning the other cheek doesn’t mean “make a doormat of oneself and lie down for everything wrong and get trampled”. It can be as simple as speaking out, or as organized as a mass protest of free people against a tyranny, or as complicated and trying as writing something like “The Wealth of Nations” (Adam Smith), or teaching as Milton Friedman did, to explain the obvious about the nature of Man.

      I think ultimately it means remaining above hatred and evil. No matter what. Christianity. Come hell and high water, stay above hatred and evil.

    • I would like to emphasis what Gringo said, no it is not meant to be a doormat. Turn the other cheek means that you try to make the tormentor realize that his action is wrong. Furthermore, you are trying to embarrass him by ‘turning the cheek’ with the hopes that he will reconsider, and change his ways.

      This is what non-violent resistance is based on, Martin Luther King, Ghandi.

      Now, this does not contradict the principle of self defense. But we will analyze the interactions of ‘turn the other cheek’ and self defense elsewhere.

      • ” turning the other cheek doesn’t mean “make a doormat of oneself and lie down for everything wrong and get trampled””

        But in Venezuela for the “politically correct” it means PRECISELY THAT, in fact, it means COMPLETELY FORSAKING THE RIGHT TO SELF DEFENSE.

        “Now, this does not contradict the principle of self defense…”

        Not according to MUD, who managed to undermine and destroy the protest movements of 2004, 2014 and 2017 by instilling that stupid idea in the people’s minds.

    • I like that show of vulnerability, like a hipo, bear, and pancho, jaguar
      This is the real deal, knot fight self horse glue, and ampersand, hats that?

  7. There are two directions to go in. The correct one is love, in all its many forms. The incorrect one is hatred.

    With a little bit of love comes respect, honesty, and things that work in good order. With love, with caring, with seeing, with understanding, come self-building, self-construction, and greater achievements in a realm which controls the material world, and that is of far greater worth and value. With hatred comes self-destruction and misery. Man tends to be short-sighted, and forgets these simple things, when it seems that the material world closes in on him, as it often does, but love is a pathway through, around, over, under, above the toils. In every building and road and vehicle, in everything working and functional, one sees love for the form and shape and function, and the satisfaction of seeing the pieces come together into a functional whole. No great effort is necessary, no huge dedication, just a calm appreciation. It is so nice to have a bucket with no holes in it, and a metal bucket is so much more convenient and durable than an earthen jar.

    Just as the pathways of love are an individual choice (there are no group discounts or package cruises to Heaven), so free markets and the investment of capital to build are based on the individual’s freedom: to build and trade. I’m not trying to make free markets and capitalism holy, but just anoint them a little, pointing out that freedom of the individual is a result of love, respect, and the desires and curiosity of man to communicate and trade honestly with others – it follows, and me, being me, I had to get in something about the wonders of free market capitalism.

    There, Christianity for Dummies. Too bad Maduro and the rest of his cronies don’t get it, but just as Venezuela turned from prosperous to a robbed bank, it can return to prosperity.

    I hope this is my good deed for the day. It was fun trying to think things through and trying to write them – good exercise therapy for a mind troubled by weight in a troubled world. I think somebody already said all this, a couple of thousand years ago. Makes sense to me!

  8. I think you got it right, Gringo.

    It’s not that there is anything holy about free-market capitalism. It is just that the alternatives always turn out to be so unholy. (Forgive me, Sir Winston.)

  9. It might be more worthwhile to come up with a few solutions instead of constantly playing the blame game. My suggestion. Everyone go on strike….stay home for three days and blanket the internet with videos of empty public spaces…who has a better idea?

  10. The statement by Pope Francis after the Easter mass may his direct criticism of the regime. He has arrived very late to this party but better late then never. On this forum I have been critical of the Pope and I have accused him of having blood on his hands. Finally he directs his remarks directly at the regime.

    A “just, peaceful and humane way to get out of the political and humanitarian crisis that oppresses” Venezuela, peace for the whole world and especially for Syria, the Holy Land, Yemen and the Middle East as soon as possible. All this requested this Sunday Pope Francis in his paschal message and blessing “urbi et orbi”, to the city and the world, which he pronounced from the central balcony of the Basilica of St. Peter after celebrating the solemn Mass of the Resurrection of the Lord .

    “We pray for fruits of consolation for the Venezuelan people, who, as their Pastors have written, live in a kind of” foreign land “in their own country, so that, by the force of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, they may find the right path. , peaceful and humane to leave as soon as possible the political and humanitarian crisis that oppresses it, and do not miss the welcome and assistance to all those who are forced to leave their homeland among their children, “he exhorted.

    Francisco cited the message of the Venezuelan Episcopal Conference, which denounced that “in recent times, Venezuela has become a kind of” strange land “for all.” “With immense wealth and potential, the nation has come down, due to the claim to implement a totalitarian system, unfair, inefficient, manipulative, where the game of staying in power at the expense of the suffering of the people, is the slogan. In addition to this, in addition to eliminating the production capacities of goods and services, poverty, helplessness and the despair of citizens have increased, “the bishops said. Francisco tried to mediate in the Venezuelan conflict, without success.

    http://www.panorama.com.ve/mundo/Papa-Francisco-insistio-en-una-salida-justa-y-pacifica-a-la-crisis-de-Venezuela-20180401-0011.html

  11. Is this the same church that spirited countless Nazis…the really, really murderous ones…out of Germany via Rome, with false papers, because they paid a lot of lire?

    Or did they do it out of forgiveness for them?

    Yeah, same fucking church.

  12. The same fucking church that 80% of Venezuelans belong to …….whose Bishops confronts the regime with outspoken directness condemning its abuses and crimes , that the regime spokesmen berate at every turn for their fierce anti regime stance ….., that cant pay for the wafers that the faithful use in the Santa Semana services so that they must rely on the Colombian church sending them from Bogota ………..if there is someone we must turn our anger at its the regime , turning it against the church is a distraction from what really deserves our anger , something that only a cripto troll can favour…!!

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