Last week the world saw, primarily through social networks, photos and videos of a battlefield between civilians and the National Guard in the land of Our Lady of Coromoto, Venezuela.
The leader of the Opposition, Leopoldo Lopez, has been jailed, two Salesian priests have been murdered, a young model is dead. These are just some of the innumerable atrocities that one hears about and listens to from the people themselves.
ZENIT contacted the president of the Venezuelan Episcopal Conference, Archbishop Diego Padrón Sánchez of Cumana, who explained a bit more about the situation in the country.
ZENIT: Through the Internet primarily, the whole world is following what is happening in Venezuela. How are Catholics coping with the tension in their nation?
Archbishop Padrón Sánchez: Like the majority of citizens, Catholics are living through moments of great sadness and anguish. They are witnesses, many in their own flesh, of the murderous violence and the fear it generates. However, at the same time, the Catholics have faith in the human and spiritual values of the people and, above all, faith that God will give His light to the rulers and leaders to bring the country out of the whirlwind in which it finds itself. Therefore, the Catholic people are praying with much devotion and confidence.
ZENIT: Is the war we are seeing through the media really happening? Is Venezuela living a general chaos?
Archbishop Padrón Sánchez: Violence in Venezuela isn’t a tale. Very many are the families mourning a son or a dead relative as a result of a hold-up. A few days ago, two adolescents killed two elderly priests in a Religious House and gravely wounded the Superior. There is no civil war but, in 2013, almost 25,000 people died because of violence.
ZENIT: How does a priest or bishop act in these times so as not to abandon their people?
Archbishop Padrón Sánchez: We priests and bishops are at the same level of the people. Like all the people, we suffer lack of electricity, food and personal security. From the parishes and communities, and from the Episcopal Conference, we priests and bishops support the people and encourage them to keep hope alive.
We believe the people have the capacity and virtue that will enable them to surmount the crisis, above all, a crisis of values.
ZENIT: What are you asking of Catholics around the world at this moment? And if you could ask Pope Francis for something, what would it be?
Archbishop Padrón Sánchez: We, Catholics, are asking the world to be convinced that our society is suffering. We thank Pope Francis for his concern for Venezuela and ask him to help us, with his word and blessing, to find reconciliation and peace.[Translation by ZENIT]