On New Year’s Day, priests across Venezuela reportedly were instructed by Cardinal Jorge Urosa Savino, the archbishop of Caracas, to read a read a text during the homily encouraging parishioners to take a stand for democracy and not be intimidated by the socialist rule of Nicolas Maduro.
Spanish newspaper ABC reported that the Vatican itself is encouraging the Catholic Church’s involvement in Venezuela’s acute financial and humanitarian crisis.
The text of the homily was sent by the Vatican, according to the paper.
The Church took a more active role in Venezuela’s politics in October, after the government blocked the opposition’s call for a referendum to recall Maduro.
In last Sunday’s homily, priests across the country referred to a "real dictatorship situation” and urged Venezuelans "to put all their efforts into stopping the advance of the dictatorship and to eradicate it in a democratic way.”
The extreme shortage of food and medicines, the text read, is caused by “an erroneous economic system, a socialist totalitarianism that gives government a total control of the economy."
In Venezuela there are still 126 political prisoners, including Leopoldo López, founder of Voluntad Popular, and the mayor of Caracas, Antonio Ledezma. According to the Venezuelan Penal Forum, the Maduro regime imprisoned 56 dissidents in 2016 and released only 40.
Vatican-sponsored talks between the two sides stalled last month after the opposition said they would not attend any further meetings unless more concessions were made by the government.