VATICAN CALLS FOR SUSPENSION OF VENEZUELA’S CONSTITUENT ASSEMBLY – VATICAN SECRETARIAT OF STATE’S COMMUNIQUE ON VENEZUELA – HOLY SEE OBSERVER TO UN ON VENEZUELA CRISIS

VATICAN CALLS FOR SUSPENSION OF VENEZUELA’S CONSTITUENT ASSEMBLY

(Vatican Radio) The Vatican on Friday issued an urgent appeal to Venezuela’s leaders to suspend the new Constituent Assembly which, it says, is threatening the future of the South American nation.

The strongly worded communique, issued by the Vatican’s Secretariat of State, says Pope Francis is following closely the situation in Venezuela, where President Nicolas Maduro is headed towards a showdown with the opposition, as he pushes ahead with the inauguration of his new Assembly.

The statement comes as the body’s 545 delegates were expected to be installed at the legislative palace in the capital, Caracas, close to the chamber where the opposition-controlled National Assembly meets.

Erosion of democracy

The new Constituent Assembly has been tasked with rewriting the country’s constitution and holds powers that override all other government branches.

Opposition leaders have denounced the erosion of democracy and vowed they will only be removed by force. Over a hundred and twenty-five people have already been killed in over three months of violent anti-government protests.

Respect rights enshrined in Constitution

The Vatican statement expresses “profound concern for the radicalisation and worsening of the crisis”, including the increase in deaths, injuries and arrests of protesters. It calls on all the country’s politicians, in  particular, the government, to guarantee “full respect for human rights and basic freedoms, as well as for the existing Constitution”.

Suspend Constituent Assembly

It says initiatives such as the new Constituent Assembly should be “avoided or suspended” since they “foment a climate of tension and conflict” which “mortgages the future” of the country, rather than fostering reconciliation and peace.

The statement calls for a negotiated solution, along the lines already indicated in a previous letter from the Secretary of State on December 1st 2016. These solutions must take into account “the serious suffering of the people”, due to a lack of security, as well as the shortages of food and medicine.

Pray for Venezuela

Finally the statement calls on all members of Venezuelan society, in particular the security forces, to avoid violence or an excessive use of force. It says the pope assures all Venezuelans of his prayers and invites people across the globe to pray intensely for the country at this moment of crisis.

VATICAN SECRETARIAT OF STATE’S COMMUNIQUE ON VENEZUELA

Following is my translation of the communique from the Secretariat of State that was released in Spanish and Italian:

The Holy See once again expresses its profound concern for the radicalization and worsening of the crisis in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, with an increase in deaths, wounded people and detainees. The Holy Father, directly and through the Secretariat of State, is closely following the situation and its humanitarian, social, political economic – and even spiritual – implications, and assures his constant prayer for the Nation and all Venezuelans, while he invites the faithful of the entire world to pray intensely for this intention.

At the same tine, the Holy See asks all political players, in particular the government, to assure full respect for human rights and basic freedoms, as well as the current constitution; to avoid or suspend initiatives underway such as the new Constituent Assembly that, instead of favoring reconciliation and peace, foments a climate of tension and clashes and mortgages the future; to create conditions for a negotiated solution in line with the indications expressed in the letter from the Secretariat of State of December 1, 2016, bearing in mind the grave sufferings of the people given the difficulties in procuring food and medicine, and for the lack of security.

And lastly, the Holy See issues a heartfelt appeal to the entire society so that every form of violence be averted, and invites, in particular, the security forces to abstain from excessive and disproportionate use of force.

HOLY SEE OBSERVER TO UN ON VENEZUELA CRISIS

On June 21, Archbishop Bernardito Auza, Holy See Permanent Observer to the United Nations, reiterated that the crisis in Venezuela must be answered with serious and sincere negotiations between the parties concerned.

In a statement to the General Assembly of the Organization of American States taking place in Cancun, Mexico,  the archbishop said since the beginning of the crisis, the Pope, the Vatican Secretary of State and the Venezuelan Bishops’ Conference have on several occasions called upon institutions and political forces, to listen to the voice of the people and defend the common good.

Referring to a letter by Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin from December 1, 2016, the nuncio observed that the path to seeking a peaceful solution can be promoted through negotiation in a number of areas, such as a path that leads to free and transparent elections, and measures to provide humanitarian aid. In the 2016 letter, the archbishop added, the Secretary of State also urges measures to be taken involving the release of political prisoners.

Archbishop Auza notes that the recent government’s decision to convene a Constituent Assembly, instead of helping to solve problems, can complicate the situation and jeopardize the democratic future of the country. He concludes that, it is, however, appreciated that a group of countries in the region or, possibly, other continents chosen by both the government and the opposition, may negotiate as guarantors.

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POPE FRANCIS TO MEET VENEZUELAN BISHOPS – POPE PENS PERSONAL LETTER ON DEATH OF CARDINAL LUBOMYR HUSAR

Yesterday, in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks in London, I preferred to dedicate this column to what the faithful of one parish in London, very close to where the attacks ocurred, did after the attack. As you know, the pastor of that parish, Fr. Christopher Pearson, is a friend of mine, as is a parishioner whom many of you know from her books and EWTN appearances, Joanna Bogle.

There was an important announcement last night from the Vatican about a meeting the Pope will have with Venezuela’s bishops to talk about the critical situation in their country. I’ve spoken in previous posts about the trauma that Venezuelans are going through, with food and medical supplies running short or even, in some cases, totally lacking.

That brief piece of news and Pope Francis’ profoundly heartfelt letter for the death of Cardinal Lubomyr Husar, Archbishop Major emeritus of Kyiv-Halyč, Ukraine, follow.

We now know that, to prayers for the people of London and the UK, we must add prayers for the people of Paris where a man attacked a policeman outside of Notre Dame cathedral.

Today’s papal tweet: Let’s always remember that our faith is concrete: the Word became flesh, not an idea!

POPE FRANCIS TO MEET VENEZUELAN BISHOPS

Last night, Greg Burke, head of the Holy See Press Office released a statement noting thyat on Thursday, June 8, Pope Francis will receive the Council of the Presidency of the Venezualan Episcopal Conference. The meeting was requested by the Episcopal Conference as it wants to speak with the Pope about the situation in Venezuela.

POPE PENS PERSONAL LETTER ON DEATH OF CARDINAL LUBOMYR HUSAR

(Vatican Radio) In a heartfelt personal letter, Pope Francis has expressed his desire to “be among those praying to the heavenly Father” for the “chosen soul of our Brother” Cardinal Lubomyr Husar.

The Holy Father noted the “extraordinary influx of people” paying their respects to the former head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church. This, he said, “is an eloquent sign of what he has been: one of the highest and most respected moral authorities of the Ukrainian people in recent decades.”

Cardinal Lubomyr Husar, Major Archbishop emeritus of Kyiv-Halyč, died on 31 May 2017, aged 84.

In his letter, addressed to Husar’s successor, Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, Pope Francis spoke of the late Cardinal’s efforts to lead his people beyond “the legacy of the ‘catacombs’ into which it was forced by persecutions.” He did so not only by restoring ecclesiastical structures, but especially through “the joy of his own story, founded on faith” that endured “through and beyond suffering.”

Pope Francis spoke of Cardinal Husar as “a master of wisdom,” who spoke to his people in simple, yet profound words. “His was the wisdom of the Gospel, the bread of the Word of God broken for the simple, for the suffering, for all those seeking dignity.” After his ministry as “father and head” of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, the Pope said, and with the onset of old age and illness, Cardinal Husar’s presence became “even more intense and rich.”

He prayed for all, and when he spoke, “everyone felt that a Christian was speaking, a Ukrainian passionate about his identity, always full of hope, open to the future of God.” Pope Francis praised him for “the warmth of his great humanity and exquisite kindness,” and especially for his ability to welcome and communicate with the young.

“It moves me to think that today all of Ukraine weeps for him,” the Pope said, “but also that many people are certain that he already rests in the embrace of the heavenly Father.” They are certain, he said, that after the example of his “credible and coherent life” they will “continue to benefit from his prayer, with which he will continue to protect his people who are still suffering, marked by violence and insecurity, and yet certain that the love of Christ does not disappoint.”

Pope Francis concluded his letter with a note of gratitude for “this unique religious and social presence in Ukraine’s history,” encouraging the faithful to remain committed to Cardinal Husar’s “constant teaching and total abandonment to Providence.” He called on them to continue “to feel his smile and his caress.”

 

POPE TO DIPLOMATS: USE DIALOGUE AND DIPLOMACY, PROMOTE INTIATIVES OF ENCOUNTER AND PEACE – MALNUTRITION, FOOD, MEDICINE SHORTAGES AT CRISIS LEVELS IN VENEZUELA

I don’t know if you have been following the political situation in Venezuela these last many months hut it has created a humanitarian situation that has reached crisis levels, according to the communications office of Caritas Internationalis in Rome. Below is a report I received today from Caritas. There are many other cirses, not necessarily of a humanitarian nature – banking, access to money, inflation, and many other issues.

POPE TO DIPLOMATS: USE DIALOGUE AND DIPLOMACY, PROMOTE INTIATIVES OF ENCOUNTER AND PEACE

Pope Francis greeted newly accredited ambassadors to the Holy See on Thursday morning, telling them that dialogue and not the use of force, was the pathway to peace. The new ambassadors represent Kazakhstan, Mauritania, Nepal, Niger, Sudan and Trinidad and Tobago, The Pope said the international scene “at present is marked by great complexity,” nor is it free “of dark clouds.” (photo news.va)

The Holy Father said that this situation required “a greater awareness of the approaches and actions needed to pursue the path of peace and to lessen tensions.”  Among the factors aggravating problems, he said, is “an economic and financial system that, rather than being at the service of people, is set up principally to serve itself and to evade oversight by public authorities. … Those authorities are responsible for the common good, yet they lack the means necessary to moderate the disproportionate appetites of the few.”

Men and women, not money, the Pope stressed “must once more become the goal of the economy..

Francis noted how conflicts around the world, were being exacerbated by fundamentalism, “the abuse of religion to justify a thirst for power, the manipulation of God’s holy name to advance by any means possible one’s own plans to gain power,”

Pope Francis urged differences to be confronted “with the courageous patience of dialogue and diplomacy, with initiatives of encounter and peace, and not with shows of force and its hasty and ill-advised use….If we move decisively in this direction, the cause of peace and justice – the conditions of a balanced development for all – will make tangible progress.” (Vatican Radio)

MALNUTRITION, FOOD, MEDICINE SHORTAGES AT CRISIS LEVELS IN VENEZUELA

Child malnutrition in parts of Venezuela is now at the level of a humanitarian crisis, warns a new report from the local Caritas agency. With the economy in freefall, shortages of food and medicine and soaring food prices, nearly half of children under five in areas monitored by Caritas are suffering from some degree of malnutrition or at imminent risk.

Caritas has been surveying child malnutrition across four states including the capital Caracas. The latest figures show that 11.4 percent of children under five are suffering either from moderate or severe acute malnutrition. The World Health Organisation’s crisis threshold for child malnutrition is 10 percent. (photo, venezuelaanalysis.com)

The Caritas figure rises to 48 per cent when under-fives at risk or already suffering lower levels of malnutrition are included. “We are extremely worried,” said Janeth Márquez, director of Caritas Venezuela, “which is why we are going public with this series of reports. We have been monitoring levels of malnutrition and providing assistance to under-fives since October across four states: Distrito Capital, Vargas, Miranda and Zulia.

“Our results clearly show that general levels of malnutrition are rising and acute malnutrition in children has crossed the crisis threshold. If we don’t respond soon, it will become very difficult for these children ever to get back onto their nutritional growth curve.”

For the most vulnerable children, Caritas distributes kits containing specialist food supplements, especially protein and minerals such as iron. Medicines are also offered to the most at-risk people, who have to be strictly prioritised given the difficulty of obtaining medical supplies.

Over eight in ten households across 31 parishes surveyed in the Caritas report are eating less than before, and nearly six out of ten say that some family members are going without food so that another person in the family can eat – typically mothers giving their own food to their children.

Caritas warns crisis is developing

“In some places we surveyed, the child malnutrition level was as high as 13 percent,” said Susana Raffalli, a humanitarian specialist in food emergencies working for Caritas in Venezuela. “If you think that four years ago the acute malnutrition rate was 3 percent, then it is shocking. In October it was 8 percent. It is progressing at a worryingly high rate”.

“You see the wasting and in some cases the edema – all the classic images of starving children. In the villages, it’s the children who are worst affected but also the adults are very wasted. You still see fancy restaurants and people living a normal life in the capital, but even in those areas, in the early morning, you see people going through trash bins looking for food.”

The Caritas report shows one in twelve households were eating “from the street” – scavenging for leftover food from restaurants and rubbish bins. With inflation running at 720 percent, the highest in the world, the basic food basket now costs 16 times the minimum wage.

“It’s a major crisis and needs national and international help to manage the scale of the disaster at the highest decision-making levels,” said Susana Rafalli. “Livelihoods have been degraded to such an extent, that the very poor have no means to cope – everything has broken down. Jobs, healthcare, the family, home – poor people have lost everything as they move about in search of a lifeline. The humanitarian community and the people of Venezuela need to begin a full-scale response now.”

Humanitarian response needed now

Venezuela’s healthcare system has collapsed. Hospitals have run out of medicines, healthcare provision, and mosquito-borne diseases including zika, dengue, malaria and chikungunya, as well as infant and maternal mortality rate are on the rise.

“We need in-kind aid from the outside,” says Susana Raffalli. “In hospitals, we don’t even have formula for babies. We need basic medicines.”

As part of the Caritas response, ‘sentinel sites’ where children are brought for regular checks have successfully been set up to monitor nutrition levels and provide nutritional supplements and basic medicines to affected children. House visits are also conducted, with the result that children at risk are now identified immediately and given medical and nutritional help.

“We are lucky to have a wonderful team of volunteer medics who are serving the community,” said Janeth Márquez. “In the parishes where Caritas is carrying out its programme, a number of children have stabilized and even recovered, despite the ongoing crisis.”

Alongside shortage of food, the other biggest risk to health is the lack of clean drinking water. Even in urban areas supplies can be cut off for days. “We are very worried about access to safe water,” said the Caritas director.

“Fresh water supplies failed a long time ago, as reservoirs have not been properly maintained, and there are no basic supplies for making water drinkable such as chlorine. In many areas the piped water is not safe to drink,” she said. “If a child who is already malnourished falls ill with a parasite, obviously the impact will be much worse. The economic situation is so bad that people can’t afford gas bottles, so they are not boiling their water.

“We are running workshops to show people how to protect themselves from water-borne parasites. We are also distributing hand-made fresh water filters that were developed for use in Africa, and training people to use them so that especially children, pregnant women and old people can drink better water.”

The Caritas report has been issued to urge the national and international community to intervene in the crisis, concluding that direct food relief including nutritional supplements is critical as is the restoring of adequate facilities for healthcare, clean water, and sanitation.

As Caritas concludes, “The response to the food crisis must be a social and economic priority, taking the politics out of protecting the most vulnerable people and facilitating the relief work of all those who, officially or unofficially, have direct contact with those most in need throughout the country.”

 

SHORT TAKES…..

Pope Francis tweeted this today, May 1: “May Saint Joseph give young people the ability to dream, to take risks for big tasks, the things that God dreams for us.”

Today is May 1, the feast of St. Joseph the Worker and the celebration throughout Italy and much of the world of Labor Day, a public holiday and this year a three-day weekend. Rome is extraordinarily quiet today, with most stores and all offices closing, and fewer busses and taxis running. In fact, on Sundays and holidays the number of busses and taxis are cut in half, so that taxis on those days number 4,000, not 8,000. You do not need a newspaper article to tell you this – just try waiting for a bus. The waiting time is longer than usual (and on some routes that can be quite long) and many bus routes simply do not function on those days. Tourist monuents and the Vatican, however, always have high numbers of visitors on holidays.

A huge rock concert takes place on this day every year on the grounds surrounding St. John Lateran basilica. The crowd has traditionally been really huge – several hundred thousand over the hours of the concert that ends around midnight. It may be larger than usual today simply by the fact that Italians had a long three-day weekend with the May 1 holiday.

It was a long weekend for Pope Francis – he was in Egypt for 27 hours Friday and Saturday and on Sunday, back in Rome, he addressed a massive crowd of members of Italian Catholic Action as they celebrated the 150th anniversary of this organization. He prayed the noon Regina Coeli prayer with all the faithful that spilled over into Via della Conciliazione.

Francis was in Egypt to attend the International Peace Conference at Al-Azhar University in Cairo. Friday, after his arrival, he paid a courtesy visit to Egyptian President Al-Sisi. Afterwards, he went to Al Azhar University, the summit of Sunni Islam teaching where he heard an opening address by the Grand Imam, Sheik Ahmad Al-Tayeb. Francis told the conference that religious leaders must denounce violations of human rights and expose attempts to justify violence and hatred in the name of God.

Later, in a meeting with Egypt’s Coptic Orthodox leader Pope Tawadros II Pope Francis said the two communities must oppose violence and work more closely together to witness to Christ in the world.  Both agreed they must try to fix a common date for Easter among Christians.  Friday evening, an impromptu meeting took place when a group of  around 300 young people gathered in front of the apostolic nunciature in Cairo, where the Pope spent the night. He had brief remarks for the young people, blessed them, prayed the Our Father with them and said several words in Arabic.

Saturday at the seminary in Cairo, Francis told priests, religious and seminarians to be “sowers of hope, builders of bridges and agents of dialogue,” despite the many difficulties they face. At Mass at Cairo’s “Air Defense Stadium,” he spoke of the need to “proclaim our faith in the Resurrection precisely by living in a way that conveys our conviction.” He said, “the only fanaticism that believers can have is that of charity – any other fanaticism does not come from God and is not pleasing to him.” He returned to Rome Saturday evening.

SHORT TAKES…..

FRANCIS AND THE MEDIA ABOARD THE PAPAL PLANE (CNA/EWTN News) – In his conversation with journalists on the way back from Egypt, Pope Francis touched on an array of topics, including North Korea, populism and a possible visit from President Donald Trump. Click here to read full text of papal in-flight presser: (photos: news.va)  http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/full-text-of-pope-francis-in-flight-presser-from-egypt-24826/

POPE FRANCIS APPEALS FOR END TO VIOLENCE IN VENEZUELA – (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has appealed for an end to violence in Venezuela and for respect of human rights in the country where nearly 30 people have been killed in unrest this month. His appeal came on Sunday before the recitation of the Regina Coeli prayer in St. Peter’s Square. “I make a heartfelt appeal to the government and all components of Venezuelan society to avoid any more forms of violence, to respect human rights and to seek a negotiated solution.” Decrying the “grave humanitarian, social, political and economic crisis that is exhausting the population,” the Holy Father said we are continuing to receive dramatic news of people being killed, injured, and detained. http://www.news.va/en/news/pope-francis-appeals-for-an-end-to-violence-in-ven

FRATERNITY CAN GENERATE A JUST SOCIETY WITH DIGNITY FOR ALL -(Vatican Radio) On May 1st the Church  remembers Saint Joseph the Worker, a day marked across the globe as International Labor Day. Pope Francis’ thoughts in these days go especially towards young people as expressed in his May 1st tweet: “May Saint Joseph give young people the ability to dream, to take risks for big tasks, the things that God dreams for us,” many of whom are faced with unprecedented high rates of unemployment and socio-financial difficulties. And, in a message to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences as it holds its Plenary Assembly in the Vatican on the theme “Towards a Participatory Society: New Roads to Social and Cultural Integration,” the Pope recalls the “hard battles” of workers during the 19th and 20th centuries which took place “in the name of solidarity and rights.”       http://www.news.va/en/news/pope-fraternity-can-generate-a-just-society-with-d