As the country is going through an unprecedented institutional and economic crisis, the Venezuelan head of state has asked the Catholic Church to “refrain from speaking about politics from the pulpit.”
The tension between the Catholic Church and Nicolas Maduro rose a notch in Venezuela on January 14, 2020, the day of the traditional pilgrimage of Barquisimeto, one of the largest processions in Latin America dedicated to the Virgin, invoked under the title of “Divina Pastora” (Divine Shepherdess).
It should first be remembered that the country is currently plunged into an unprecedented political, economic, and social crisis initiated by the succession of Hugo Chavez (1999-2013). The latter established a revolutionary Bolivarian and socialist regime.
Since January 2019, the President of the National Assembly, Juan Guaidó has proclaimed himself the legitimate President, denouncing the continuation in power of his rival, Nicolas Maduro. The first is recognized by around sixty countries, including the United States and most Western countries (Germany, Australia, France, Japan, United Kingdom), while the second has the support of twenty countries, including Mexico, China, Iran, Russia, and the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas.
In this grave situation, the Church is trying to play a mediating role, without much success. But for the Venezuelan president: the crisis and the failures of public services are due to the constant “aggressions” coming from the United States.
During the aforementioned pilgrimage, the local ordinary, Msgr. Victor Hugo Basabe castigated part of the corrupt political class in his homily, mocking “those who are the main causes of this whole tragedy” in the country. The Archbishop of Barquisimeto continued his indictment against the executive, condemning the “cowardly use” of arms against civilians.
Nicolas Maduro’s response was quick. Taking advantage of a forum in the National Assembly, the head of state responded by criticizing the “politicization” of the Marian procession. Especially since Juan Guaido, leader of the opposition, notoriously supported by the American administration, participated.
“The bishops must learn to respect the Catholic people of Venezuela. They must learn to respect the sincere prayer of the humble man and woman, who do not want to see the pulpits of their churches politicized, in favor of a retrograde policy and right-wing reactionary,” said Nicolas Maduro.
The statue of the Divina Pastora is shown holding the Child Jesus with a lamb by her side. Patron saint of the city of Barquisimeto, she has been carried in procession since 1855, the year when her intercession saved the city from a cholera epidemic. May she intercede today to rid the country of its real enemies.