Below is a working translation of the letter the presidency of the Episcopal Conference of Venezuela had written to Pope Francis motivated by the audience the Holy Father granted them on June 8, 2017:
Venezuelan Episcopal Conference
GREETING OF THE PRESIDENCY OF THE VENEZUELAN
EPISCOPAL CONFERENCE TO THE HOLY FATHER FRANCIS, ON THE OCCASION OF THE AUDIENCE GRANTED ON JUNE 8, 2017
Through us, the Bishops of Venezuela greet you fraternally, they reiterate to you their total adherence to your person and Magisterium and pray each day, asking Jesus Christ that your words and gestures, as Universal Pastor, may reveal to all men and women the mercy of the Celestial Father. Our obedience to your person is not only affective and guided by Latin American empathy but of a theological and sacramental character. It is not debatable, and we explicit it with the Latin formula Cum Petro et sub Petro. Any other interpretation is false and malicious. Hence we have received with profound esteem and sincere satisfaction your fraternal and honorable letter of last May 5, addressed to all the Bishops, as well as your continual concern in regard to Venezuela.
The Episcopate and the whole Church in Venezuela thank you for your manifest concern for the democratic destiny of our nation, and for the prolonged and growing suffering to which it is subjected. In fact, in Venezuela today there is no longer an ideological conflict between the right and the left or between “patriots” and “squalids” – all this has passed to a second or third plane – but a struggle between a Government that has become a self-referential dictatorship, which only serves its own interests, and an entire people that cries for freedom and seeks zealously, at the risk of the lives of the youngest, bread, medications, security, work and just elections, full liberties and autonomous public powers, which will put, in the first place, the common good and social peace.
The Episcopal Conference has appealed repeatedly to the Government and just two months ago met and exchanged, with its most qualified representatives, some proposals regarding humanitarian aid. The hope that Venezuelan Caritas, in addition to the ample work it carries out ordinarily, would be able to serve as instrument so that at least medicines would arrive in time and without exclusions to all the citizens, has not been lost; however, the conditions that the Ministries and other organizations in charge of health and nutrition establish are such and so many that the road is uphill and sown with obstacles.
On the other hand, the Venezuelan Episcopate has judged unnecessary, unequal from the social point of view and, consequently, inconvenient and dangerous, the presidential initiative of a National Constituent Assembly, convoked without consulting the free opinion of the people in a direct and universal way, through a previous consultative referendum. This Assembly, planned for the end of the month of July, will be imposed by force and its results will be the constitutional establishment of a military, Socialist-Marxist and Communist dictatorship, the unlimited permanence of the present Government in power, the annulment of the constituted public powers, particularly of the present National Assembly, representative of the popular sovereignty, the increase of persecution and exile of opponents of the dominant political system and the amplification of facilities for the corruption of the rulers and their cohorts. Should it be approved, greater controls are not discarded to the freedom of expression, including religious liberty, and greater repression of the citizenry. For these and other reasons the Venezuelan Episcopal Conference rejects categorically the installation and development of the said Constituent Assembly, of a communal and excluding character.
The imposition of this format of Assembly is also the negation, on the part of the present Government, of a true and effective intention to dialogue. For the Episcopal Conference, dialogue in Venezuela means today to consult the free opinion of the sovereign people to seriously respect the result of the consultation. However, the dialogue in our country must have, not as condition but as point of departure or proposals of real efficacy, the Agreements reached, but not fulfilled, in the Dialogue session of the 30th and 31st of October of last year, appropriately called for by the Vatican Secretary of State, His Eminence Cardinal Pietro Parolin, in his letter sent to the Government and to the Opposition on December 1, 2016.
Holy Father, our people suffer every day more. Today, although the topic of the news is the National Constituent Assembly, the social situation has not improved. The shortage of foods and medications continues with the added aggravation of the meager economic accessibility of Venezuelans; infant malnutrition is increasing and our sick are dying. The brutal repression of protests on the part of the Government’s security organs has cost more than seventy young lives. They are very painful scenes that we have lived in the last two months.
The Bishops, Priests, Consecrated Men and Women, and the laity are more united in Venezuela today than at other times, endeavouring to give a credible witness of faith, hope and charity, of poverty, solidarity and prayer. Never before had so much prayer been done in Venezuela as now. The holy faithful people love the Pope and pray more for him. We also pray for your forthcoming trip to our sister country of Colombia.
Holy Father, the Church in Venezuela walks with you. Nothing and no one will separate her from your Pastor’s crozier. We Bishops esteem as highly positive your messages addressed to the Pastors of the Church, the rulers, the political leadership and the whole people. We need your guiding word, even at the risk that, at some moment, it might me misinterpreted, it is always for us a source of consolation and hope. Thanking you immensely, Holy Father, for having received us, the Pastors and faithful of Venezuela ask you to give us your holy blessing.
Thank you very much.[Original Text: Spanish] [Letter courtesy of the Holy See Press Office and working translation provided by Virginia M. Forrester]