The Venezuelan government is known to be among the most corrupt in Latin America, and violent crime in the country has spiked since Maduro took office after former president Chavez died from cancer in 2013. The regime is known to have committed gross abuses, including violence, against those who don’t share their political ideologies.
When it comes to the stance of the Church in the crisis, Porras noted that since the bishops frequently speak out against the Maduro regime, they are labeled as siding with the opposition. However, he stressed that “The Church in Venezuela is not with the opposition, it’s with the people.”
“The hierarchy is with the people,” he said, noting that according to documentation from 1531 when Venezuela first received a bishop until now, the Church has always pointed out the problems that need to be solved.
“All governments, from Romulo Betancourt to now have seen us as the opposition,” he said, insisting that the Church’s behavior, particularly in the past 50 years, “has been in continuity” with her attitude in the past.
“We are on the side of the people and not on the side of any political bias,” he said, explaining that in their meetings with people from both government and opposition parties, “we usually say things quite clearly. And there are those who receive it and those who don’t.”
Porras also spoke about Pope Francis and his Latin American roots, which he says are at the heart of the Pope’s closeness to the people.
In both Europe and North America, Pope Francis’ style “is sometimes seen as something like a good pastor who doesn’t have much depth in thought, that he is simply a good pastor.”
This attitude “is a mistake,” Porras said, saying that if there’s one virtue the Church in Latin America has “it is closeness, simplicity and presence in the midst of problems.”
Different currents of thought since the Second Vatican Council such as liberation theology and the theology of the people, “which Pope Francis represents,” has a lot to do with this cultural sense of closeness, Porras said.
The 'theology of the people' was popular in Argentina in the 1950s as an alternative to radical liberation theology. While radical liberation theologians looked to Marxist interpretations of the Gospel, theology of the people was founded on common peoples' culture and devotion, including their spirituality and sense of justice.
A true “pastoral theology,” Porras said, can be understood by looking to the concept of an internist doctor in medicine, who is the one that has “a fairly general vision” of things, and as such is able to take the richness of other areas of theology “and always relate them to reality, to daily life.”
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“This is one of the great contributions” Latin American theology has, Porras said, explaining that the true value of it “is clearly expressed in the thought and actions of Pope Francis.”
He spoke about the Pope’s frequent call for pastors to take on “smell of the sheep,” which is something “we have to be permanently,” particularly given the country’s current situation.
“Unfortunately, in Latin America and Venezuela also, those who arrive at the government remain isolated in a kind of capsule and have very little relation with the people, with real problems,” he said, noting that as bishops, staying close to their flock is a key way “to be able to see what reality” is like.
Many say Venezuela is a rich country, “but what Venezuela has had throughout the 21st century is a rich government, but not a rich population,” the archbishop said, explaining that currently “everything is the opposite.”
“Imagine at this moment that there is no food, where there are no medicines, where violence is unleashed and where impunity and corruption are evident because the mere presence of works and people of the Church is already a call to what should be.”
When asked about the recent election of Donald Trump as the next president of the United States, Porras said Trump’s pre-election rhetoric on immigration has “a short circuit,” especially given the fact that there are many Latinos who live in the U.S.