.- 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 âconscience and responsibility.â
Entitled âReferendum, Conscience and Responsibility,â the bishopsâ message exhorted Venezuelans to exercise their right to vote and âto explicitly make known their wishes regarding the conduct of the president of the Republic and his manner of governing.â
The bishops said the purpose of the statement is âto share the concerns of the momentâ and to offer a vision of reality âfree from all commitment to political partiesâ but inspired in the civic, moral and Christian obligation to reflect upon this event.
âThe referendum is a right, not a gift. It should not be seen as a war to eliminate oneâs adversary, but rather as an opportunity to evaluate the conduct of the government,â the bishops said.
Likewise, they called on the National Electoral Council to facilitate the organization of the recall referendum âwithout demanding excessive regulatory requirements that may impede or delay its advancement,â since the referendum will only be totally accepted âif the Council contributes to dispelling suspicions and doubtsâ about its results.
The Council âshould 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.â
The bishops also addressed the media, reminding them of their mission âto broadcast information with objectivity, truthfulness and fairness,â and they called on international observers âto continue giving their support.â
Archbishop Diego Padron of Cumana said, âThe Church is not campaigning,â adding that âbeyond 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.â
He recalled that regardless of the response of the Government to the bishopsâ message, the intention of the Church is âto contribute to a solution to the crisisâ and to call all to participate.