Venezuela: Appointment of a Nuncio

Source: FSSPX News

Archbishop Alberto Ortega Martín

The Supreme Pontiff and Nicolás Maduro agreed to appoint a new representative of the Holy See to Venezuela, while the situation between the Church and the Bolivarian power remains strained and the presidential election of July 28, 2024, is approaching.

Well in the shade of the palm trees, the nunciature of Caracas (Venezuela) seems to have been in a state of slumber for three years— until May 14, 2024, the day that Pope Francis finally brought it out of its torpor by appointing Archbishop Ortega Martín the official representative of the Holy See to Venezuela.

Because since the departure of Archbishop Aldo Giordano, no prelate had been chosen to succeed him, and the diplomatic representation of the Holy See in the South American capital had been entrusted ad interim to a Greek Catholic priest, Msgr. Ignazio Ceffalia. A three-year vacancy which can be explained by the strained relations between the Vatican, the local Church, and Nicolás Maduro.

For around ten years, the head of State has been contested, internationally and in his own country: “Hundreds of Venezuelans died protesting against the regime in 2014, 2017 and 2019 and several thousand have been imprisoned for the same reason,” The Pillar recalls.

“The result has been the largest humanitarian crisis in the Western Hemisphere, with more than 8 million refugees fleeing the country,” the same newspaper concludes.

Pope Francis, at the request of Nicolás Maduro, made several mediation attempts between the regime and an opposition largely supported by the United States. “But all attempts at negotiation thus far have failed,” The Pillar notes.

“The Church is widely regarded as one of the most, if not the most trusted and popular institutions in the country and local bishops have considerable public credibility for having publicly and consistently speaking out against the abuses of the Maduro regime,” the newspaper explains.

The Holy See, in order to avoid a scenario like Nicaragua, adopted a “positive neutrality” regarding the head of State. An attitude that seems to be paying off. The skill of the Secretary of State of the Holy See, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, who was Nuncio to Caracas between 2009 and 2013, and that of his Substitute, Archbishop Edgar Robinson Peña Parra, a Venezuelan prelate, has undoubtedly been useful.

Archbishop Ortega Martín will have a delicate mission: Nicolás Maduro, by virtue of the concordat which governs relations between the Holy See and Venezuela, has blocked or slowed several episcopal appointments in recent years. And some seats in the country are vacant. And nothing can be done without the agreement of the head of State, who looks unfavorably upon the political activism in which certain priests engage.

A candidate for reelection in a country exhausted by a decade of recession, Nicolás Maduro poses as the continuation of the Bolivarian revolution, launched by the charismatic Hugo Chavez, still ever-present in official speeches. The presidential election is set for July 28, 2024, the anniversary of the birth of the former leader, who died in March 2013.

A risky gamble for the Venezuelan head of State: after ten years of a hyperinflation crisis, the country has seen the rise in prices “limit” themselves at 185% for 2023, Les Echos reports. A change of direction for Maduro’s government, which has stopped “raising salaries in an untimely way,” the same newspaper explains, giving hope for inflation at “only” double digits in 2024.

But the situation again became strained when the United States announced, in April, the reactivation of its sanctions against the Venezuelan oil and gas sectors, Le Monde notes.

While several observers fear that the situation of the Catholic faithful is still deteriorating, the new Nuncio has the advantage of arriving on site with great diplomatic experience in Chile, and he benefits from the confidence of the Vatican and the Venezuelan bishops, while waiting to win the confidence of the Bolivarian president, if he is reelected this summer.