Pope Sends Message of Hope to Venezuela

After Meeting With President of the Country’s Episcopate

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VATICAN CITY, APRIL 23, 2004 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II sent a message of peace, hope and reconciliation to Venezuelans, after a private meeting with the president of the country’s bishops’ conference.

The Venezuelan newspaper El Universal reported Archbishop Enrique Porras Cardozo of Merida as saying that during the meeting Monday “the Pope recalled his two trips to Venezuela, and expressed what his pastoral experience in the area meant to him and the need for us to continue as Church to carry out an integral evangelization despite all the difficulties.”

A note from the bishops’ conference explained that Archbishop Porras traveled to Italy to visit the Vatican dicasteries and to report on the situation in Venezuela, as well as on the constant attacks of Hugo Chávez’s government against the Church.

The archbishop, representing his country’s episcopal conference, went to Rome to “bring the Holy Father up-to-date on the situation the Venezuelan people are living through,” the note said.

The country’s situation “has caused disquiet and concern in the Holy See,” and the “constant attacks on the Venezuelan clergy by the president of the republic” have caused even greater disconcert, the noted added.

During Archbishop Porras’ meeting with the Pope, special mention was made of the importance of defending the poor and of protecting human rights “as it forms part of the preaching of the word of God,” the newspaper reported, quoting John Paul II.

During the conference president’s visit to the Vatican, repeated reference was made to the Venezuelan crisis.

“They always asked me about the situation in the country, about human rights, about the state of the recall referendum, and about the possibility of finding a peaceful way out of the conflict,” Archbishop Porras continued.

He added that the Holy Father sent a message of hope and courage to Venezuelans, given the need for reconciliation in the country, and prayed that “the merciful Father” would heal the wounds and many divisions “that are generated in our society.”

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