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Venezuelan bishops: Country’s situation is ‘unacceptable’

May 31, 2020 CNA Daily News 1

CNA Staff, May 31, 2020 / 12:10 pm (CNA).- The Venezuelan bishops published an exhortation May 28 calling for “a consensus among all and an inclusive national accord” to save the country from “immense national, material, institutional and social catastrophe.”

Under the socialist administration of President Nicolas Maduro, Venezuela has been marred by violence and social upheaval, with severe shortages of food and medicine, high unemployment, power outages, and hyperinflation. Some 4.5 million Venezuelans have left the country since 2015.

In their message, “A voice is heard of someone crying bitterly,” the bishops said that “the country is near economic bankruptcy of profound proportions” which “it won’t be able to come out of, unless all people definitively demand answers from the authorities and the entire political, social and cultural leadership, and a national emergency is declared.”

The bishops underscored “it is unacceptable for the situation we’re living in to continue,” and that what is most urgent in view of “the immense catastrophe” in all areas is “far reaching moral action, an ethical shake-up, and a socio-political convergence” that sets the country on the right course.

The bishops pointed out that change will not be achieved “by eliminating those who think differently”, but “including all political factors and the different institutions in the search for concerted solutions”, along with a  “new spiritual climate and renewed leadership” that will ward off corruption.

“Disunity and perennial confrontation aggravate the situation and sink us further as a people,” they said.

Given the situation, the bishops called for “an inclusive long range national accord to save Venezuela from the extremely grave crisis it is engulfed in and to initiate processes to rescue and recover the country socially, politically and economically.”

“Economically we see the country adrift, without economic plans in view of the possibility of companies closing down and many workers losing their jobs; the same is true of workers in the informal economy (that operates outside the system) which is the majority of them. Without daily sustenance, there will be more hunger and suffering in families,” the bishops alerted.

“The moral unsustainability of the current situation requires that radical change,” they stressed.

“The best contribution that we as citizens can make to the country is that working from  our social institutions, we participate in the search for a way out (…). This will imply new political leadership that guides the country towards progress and lets go of suffocating and toxic ideologies that create suffering and death. Thus, hope will be reborn with a merciful and Samaritan disposition,” the country’s bishops proposed.

The situation in Venezuela is “very problematic” the bishops said, due to  COVID-19 pandemic the country is experiencing, in addition to “the ravages of serious economic, political and social problems that are intensifying every day.”

“The presence of the pandemic has only made more evident the numerous shortages the people are suffering from, as well as the inability to provide adequate responses to them, besides the partial solutions which are necessary but insufficient, since these ills must be pulled up from the roots.”

The bishops noted that the lockdown and social distancing have “managed to stop the spread of the disease for a time,” but in the last week, “the number of those infected has increased alarmingly.”

Although the majority of the population “has behaved in a very civic-minded manner,” abiding by the prevention protocols, nevertheless “an immense cry” can be heard from the millions “without economic resources, food, medicine, work, adequate supply of electricity, running water, transportation, cooking gas and fuel.”

“It is necessary to prepare, as soon as possible, with the broad participation of all social sectors, a roadmap to lift the lockdown that includes making it easier for workers to get to their jobs, reactivating the economy and commerce, the progressive opening of the churches for liturgical celebrations, in compliance with the prevention protocols that the health emergency calls for,” the bishops said.

They also stressed that the “crisis cannot be managed only as a weapon of social and political control” where human rights violations are allowed.

Social unrest due to “the numerous shortages has been expressed in various protests that at times have been repressed with violence, but hunger can’t be contained with repression,” they pointed out.

At the conclusion of their message, the Venezuelan bishops pointed to Venerable Dr. José Gregorio Hernández–soon be beatified–as a model who “encourages and inspires us to follow the path he took as a man, doctor and Christian committed to his people.”

“José Gregorio is a symbol of the unity of the country and the path of hope. May the Virgin of Coromoto, the patroness of Venezuela, bless us at the culmination of this month of May dedicated to so many Marian devotions and may she intercede before God for the end of the disease and the deep crisis we are going through,” the bishops said.


A version of this story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.


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Full text: Pope Francis’ homily on Pentecost Sunday

May 31, 2020 CNA Daily News 1

Vatican City, May 31, 2020 / 05:15 am (CNA).- Here is the full text of Pope Francis’ Pentecost Sunday homily, delivered May 31, 2020, at the Basilica of St. Peter, and checked against delivery.

“There are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but the same Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:4), as the Apostle Paul writes to the Corinthians. He continues: “There are different forms of service, but the same Lord; there are different workings but the same God who produces all of them in everyone” (vv. 5- 6). Diversity and unity: St. Paul puts together two words that seem contradictory. He wants to tell us that the Holy Spirit is the one who brings together the many; and that the Church was born this way: we are all different, yet united by the same Holy Spirit. 

Let us go back to the origin of the Church, to the day of Pentecost. Let us look at the Apostles: some of them were fishermen, simple people accustomed to living by the work of their hands, but there were also others, like Matthew, who was an educated tax collector. They were from different backgrounds and social contexts, and they had Hebrew and Greek names. In terms of character, some were meek and others were excitable; they all had different ideas and sensibilities. They were all different. Jesus did not change them; he did not make them into a set of pre-packaged models. He left their differences and now he unites them by anointing them with the Holy Spirit. The union comes with the anointing. At Pentecost, the Apostles understand the unifying power of the Spirit. They see it with their own eyes when everyone, though speaking in different languages, comes together as one people: the people of God, shaped by the Spirit, who weaves unity from diversity and bestows harmony because there is harmony in the Spirit. He himself is harmony. 

Let us now focus on ourselves, the Church of today. We can ask ourselves: “What is it that unites us, what is the basis of our unity?” We too have our differences, for example: of opinions, choices, sensibilities. But the temptation is always fiercely to defend our ideas, believing them to be good for everybody and agreeing only with those who think as we do. And that’s a bad temptation that divides. But this is a faith created in our own image; it is not what the Spirit wants. We might think that what unite us are our beliefs and our morality. But there is much more: our principle of unity is the Holy Spirit. He reminds us that first of all we are God’s beloved children, all the same, in this, and all different. The Spirit comes to us, in our differences and difficulties, to tell us that we have one Lord — Jesus — and one Father, and that for this reason we are brothers and sisters! Let us begin anew from here; let us look at the Church with the eyes of the Spirit and not as the world does. The world sees us only as on the right or left, with this ideology, with that one; the Spirit sees us as sons and daughters of the Father and brothers and sisters of Jesus. The world sees conservatives and progressives; the Spirit sees children of God. A worldly gaze sees structures to be made more efficient; a spiritual gaze sees brothers and sisters pleading for mercy. The Spirit loves us and knows everyone’s place in the grand scheme of things: for him, we are not bits of confetti blown about by the wind, rather we are irreplaceable fragments in his mosaic. 

If we go back to the day of Pentecost, we discover that the first task of the Church is proclamation. Yet we see that the Apostles do not prepare a strategy; when they were shut in there, in the Upper Room, they did not make a strategy, no, they do not prepare a pastoral plan. They could have divided people into groups according to their roots, speaking first to those close by and then to those far away… They could have also waited a while before beginning their preaching in order to understand more deeply the teachings of Jesus, so as to avoid risks… No. The Spirit does not want the memory of the Master to be cultivated in small groups locked in upper rooms where it is easy to “nest.” And this is a bad disease that can come to the Church: the Church not as a community, not as a family, not as a mother, but as a nest. He opens doors and pushes us to press beyond what has already been said and done, beyond the precincts of a timid and wary faith. In the world, unless there is tight organization and a clear strategy, things fall apart. In the Church, however, the Spirit guarantees unity to those who proclaim the message. The Apostles set off: unprepared, yet putting their lives on the line. One thing kept them going: the desire to give what they received. The beginning of the First Letter of John is beautiful: “What we have seen and heard we proclaim now to you” (1 John 1:3). 

Here we come to understand what the secret of unity is, the secret of the Spirit. It is gift. For the Spirit himself is gift: he lives by giving himself and in this way he keeps us together, making us sharers in the same gift. It is important to believe that God is gift, that he acts not by taking away, but by giving. Why is this important? Because our way of being believers depends on how we understand God. If we have in mind a God who takes away and imposes himself, we too will want to take away and impose ourselves: occupying spaces, demanding recognition, seeking power. But if we have in our hearts a God who is gift, everything changes. If we realize that what we are is his gift, free and unmerited, then we too will want to make our lives a gift. By loving humbly, serving freely and joyfully, we will offer to the world the true image of God. The Spirit, the living memory of the Church, reminds us that we are born from a gift and that we grow by giving: not by holding on but by giving of ourselves. 

Dear brothers and sisters, let us look within and ask ourselves what prevents us from giving ourselves. There are, let us say, three enemies of the gift — the main ones, three — always lurking at the door of our hearts: narcissism, victimhood and pessimism. Narcissism makes us idolize ourselves, to be concerned only with what is good for us. The narcissist thinks: “Life is good if I profit from it.” So he or she ends up saying: “Why should I give myself to others?” In this time of pandemic, how wrong narcissism is: the tendency to think only of our own needs, to be indifferent to those of others, and not to admit our own frailties and mistakes. But the second enemy, victimhood, is equally dangerous. Victims complain every day about their neighbour: “No one understands me, no one helps me, no one loves me, everyone has it in for me!” The victim’s heart is closed, as he or she asks, “Why aren’t others concerned about me?” In the crisis we are experiencing, how ugly victimhood is! Thinking that no one understands us and experiences what we experience. Finally, there is pessimism. Here the unending complaint is: “Nothing is going well, society, politics, the Church…” The pessimist gets angry with the world, but sits back and does nothing, thinking: “What good is giving? That is useless.” At this moment, in the great effort of beginning anew, how damaging is pessimism, the tendency to see everything in the worst light and to keep saying that nothing will return as before! When someone thinks this way, the one thing that certainly does not return is hope. In these three — the narcissistic idol of the mirror, the ‘mirror-god;’ ‘I feel like a person with grievances;’ and the ‘god-negativity,’ ‘everything is black, everything is dark’ — we find ourselves in the famine of hope and we need to appreciate the gift of life, the gift that each of us is. Therefore we need the Holy Spirit, God’s gift that heals us from narcissism, victimhood and pessimism, heals us from the mirror, from grievances and darkness. 

Brothers and sister, let us pray to him: Holy Spirit, memory of God, revive in us the memory of the gift received. Free us from the paralysis of selfishness and awaken in us the desire to serve, to do good. Even worse than this crisis is the tragedy of squandering it by closing in on ourselves. Come, Holy Spirit: you are harmony; make us builders of unity. You always give yourself; grant us the courage to go out of ourselves, to love and help each other, in order to become one family. Amen. 


The Dispatch

Life in the Holy Spirit

May 30, 2020 Fr. Charles Fox 3

Pentecost Sunday is one of the feasts of the liturgical year that surprises us with an extra song before the Gospel at Holy Mass. Just when we are ready to launch (or heave, or slowly […]