In their statement, Venezuela's bishops pointed to the ongoing political crisis the country is facing, saying the primary cause for their woes is the national government, "for putting its political project over any other consideration, including the humanitarian."
They also criticized the government for "erroneous" financial policies, for its "contempt for productive activity and for private property and for its constant attitude of placing obstacles in the way of those who want to resolve some aspect of the current problem."
The government is playing the victim in both internal and external ways, they said, explaining that this is "nothing more than the confession of their own inability to manage the country. One cannot pretend to resolve the situation of a failed economy with emergency measures such as food bags and bonuses."
Elections held in May, which many Venezuelans, including the bishops, protested as illegitimate, has only cemented the current government's hold on power, rather than leading to legal and democratic presidential elections, they said, noting that the boycott by high numbers of the population is a "silent message of rejection" toward a regime that seeks to impose "a totalitarian ideology."
Calling Venezuela's National Constituent Assembly "illegitimate," the bishops said the entity violates "the most sacred rights of the Venezuelan people: the fundamental freedom to elect their own leaders in a fair electoral competition" without manipulation or favoritism.
Bishops said they live under a "de facto regime" which does not live by the constitution, and stressed the need for national leadership which puts people and ethics at the center, rather than power, control, or the pursuit of "petty interests."
They also pointed to the growing Venezuelan diaspora throughout the world, mostly in neighboring Latin American countries, who risk trafficking and often struggle to integrate into their new countries. The Unied Nations Refugee Agency recently estimated that 5,000 Venezuelans emigrate daily.
Noting the high numbers of youth who have left, bishops said their absence is a loss of "human talent" for the country and of hope for the future.
However, the bishops stressed that "God guides his people from slavery to freedom, but he also educates them, through trials and hardship, so that it reaches the necessary maturity as a nation."
They urged citizens to pray, saying no prayer or sacrifice is useless, even if the result is not immediately seen.
In the midst of the crisis, the Church, they said, has en evangelic task of looking after the interests of the people.
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They stressed that the Church is not a substitute for political leaders, and does not wish to "dominate the social panorama, nor to become a factor of government or opposition."
"However, it encourages the duly educated and aware laity of their citizens' rights and obligations to make their voices heart and to actively intervene in the political arena, so that the high principles and values that the Christian faith transmits to us can also be lived in the scope of the public and translate into works of common good."
The bishops invited members of civil society to look for creative solutions to the crisis, urging citizens not to grow accustomed to living in "humiliating" conditions, and to be active in using every means possible to return power to the people.
Addressing the Venezuelan armed forces, bishops urged them to be faithful to their oath before God and homeland to "defend the constitution and democracy, and not to be carried away by political and ideological bias."
They also advocated for greater solidarity on the part of parishes and ecclesial institutions in keeping with the Church's social doctrine, despite the difficulties. The Church community, they said, is called "to promote a structural change in favor of the transformation of our society."
"We must never be discouraged in front of the challenges of an uncertain and difficult present," they said. "On the contrary, we place our trust in God, who gives us the strength to bear witness and to do good, and we strengthen the demands in favor of justice and freedom."