Venezuelan bishops call participation in referendum “inescapable duty”
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.- Wrapping up their general assembly, which took place July 7-12, the bishops of Venezuela issued a document calling participation in the coming referendum on August 15 an inescapable duty of “conscience and responsibility.”

Entitled “Referendum, Conscience and Responsibility,” the bishops’ message exhorted Venezuelans to exercise their right to vote and “to explicitly make known their wishes regarding the conduct of the president of the Republic and his manner of governing.”

The bishops said the purpose of the statement is “to share the concerns of the moment” and to offer a vision of reality “free from all commitment to political parties” but inspired in the civic, moral and Christian obligation to reflect upon this event.

“The referendum is a right, not a gift.  It should not be seen as a war to eliminate one’s adversary, but rather as an opportunity to evaluate the conduct of the government,” the bishops said.

Likewise, they called on the National Electoral Council to facilitate the organization of the recall referendum “without demanding excessive regulatory requirements that may impede or delay its advancement,” since the referendum will only be totally accepted “if the Council contributes to dispelling suspicions and doubts” about its results.

The Council “should also reject any temptation to coercion or fraud, which would mean a violation of the dignity of citizens and could provoke challenges, rejections and even violence.”

The bishops also addressed the media, reminding them of their mission “to broadcast information with objectivity, truthfulness and fairness,” and they called on international observers “to continue giving their support.”

Archbishop Diego Padron of Cumana said, “The Church is not campaigning,” adding that “beyond an electoral solution to the present crisis, it is absolutely necessary to establish an agreement of governing among all Venezuelans, without excluding anyone because of ideology or political opinion.”

He recalled that regardless of the response of the Government to the bishops’ message, the intention of the Church is “to contribute to a solution to the crisis” and to call all to participate.

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