San José, Costa Rica, Jan 10, 2019 / 17:01 pm
Twenty former heads of state and government from Latin America have written a letter to Pope Francis finding fault with the wording of his Christmas blessing for Venezuela and Nicaragua.
Published in Spanish-language newspapers Dec. 6, the letter claims the pope’s Dec. 25 “Urbi et Orbi” blessing unintentionally minimized the oppression of Venezuelans and Nicaraguans at the hands of their governments.
The letter’s signatories, which include Nobel Peace Prize-winner and former president of Costa Rica Oscar Arias, said it was not doubted that Francis’ good faith and “pastoral spirit” was behind the message, but it “is being interpreted in a very negative way by the majority of Venezuela and Nicaragua.”
“Above all, there is currently, in these countries, a political dispute that demands understanding, tolerance between conflicting forces with different narratives within a normal or deficient democracy that today unfortunately does not exist there,” it continued.
In his blessing, Pope Francis had prayed that the Christmas season would allow Venezuela “once more to recover social harmony and enable all the members of society to work fraternally for the country’s development and to aid the most vulnerable sectors of the population.”
About Nicaragua, the pope asked that the inhabitants of the country “see themselves once more as brothers and sisters, so that divisions and discord will not prevail, but all may work to promote reconciliation and to build together the future of the country.”
The letter of the former Latin American political leaders stated concern that “the call for harmony on the part of your Holiness, given the current context, can be understood by the victimized nations that they should come to agreement with their victimizers.”
In the case of Venezuela, they added that “the government has caused the flight of 3 million refugees, which the United Nations predicts will reach 5.9 million in 2019.”