Fr. Rafael Garrido, Provincial of the Society of Jesus, on behalf of the Jesuits of Venezuela, addresses public opinion to issue the following communiqué:
Together with the vast majority of Venezuelans, we religious of the Society of Jesus in Venezuela are horrified by the reality of misery, persecution, exile and death that we are experiencing. Before Jesus crucified and the crucified people we ask ourselves: what have we done and what are we doing for Venezuela, and what must we do so that we Venezuelans may overcome this situation as soon as possible and embark on the path of life for all?
We thank our bishops who, together with the Holy See, have raised with clarity and courage their voice as Venezuelan followers of Jesus and as pastors, demanding a rapid and profound change of this reality of death caused by the determination to impose a totalitarian project which has failed everywhere. Pope Francis and the Holy See tell us: “As I unite myself to the pain of the relatives of the victims, for whom I assure prayers of suffrage, I address an urgent appeal to the government and all the components of Venezuelan society to avoid any further form of violence; that human rights be respected and negotiated solutions to the serious humanitarian, social, political and economic crisis that is depleting the population be sought.” Our bishops emphasize that we will not get out of the democratic breakdown while the Constitution and human rights are not respected, while the elected National Assembly remains annulled, the number of prisoners, exiles and persecuted politicians continues and increases, and there are no free elections for the sovereign people to choose their representatives at all levels and instances, as required by the Constitution. The Church, interpreting the clamor of the people, demands the immediate opening of international humanitarian aid in medicine and food and the prompt opening to all initiatives for the activation of a productive economy with free initiative committed to the common good and a non-partisan military force which respects and defends the Constitution.
In this dramatic hour, we Jesuits feel called to accompany the people and to bring out the best of what we have received from Jesus of Nazareth and his Church: to put the poor of Venezuela at the center of our lives and work, and to contribute the spirit of the Gospel to discern the ways of life in order to achieve the necessary reconciliation of all Venezuelans. Only love builds; hatred kills, divides and destroys. We ask Venezuelans from various sectors to look at the tearful faces of those they consider most distant and embrace them in the name of Jesus, to rescue democracy and the peaceful construction of the common good together. We will not be able to produce the new Venezuela that is united, honest and productive until we are convinced that the poor must be at the center of the new democratic Venezuela as active subjects of politics and economy. The central axis of productive Venezuela must be the opportunity of decent work for all in the successful production in our factories, abandoned fields and service centers.
Prolonging the present dramatic situation with young people exiled and persecuted, deprived of hope, is criminal. Time is running out and we must seek without delay the transition to a reconciled and inclusive Venezuela. Every single day of delay increases death and misery, exodus and hopelessness. With deep pain, we mourn the murder of young people in recent months.
The Society of Jesus has a varied educational presence in universities, schools, popular educational centers of “Fe y Alegría” … From there we want to raise a cry of alarm and of hope: good education is being stifled and with it the future of children and young people, both in the formation of people in their professional skills, and in their formation in values based on love and solidarity. There is a lack of educators; their much-needed vocation is being destroyed and educational institutions are dying. Nothing is more urgent or essential than the renewal of all education with a wide-ranging invitation to the whole society to be aware of and to develop their educational responsibility, along with their democratic state. We need to have flourishing multiple initiatives supported by the public budget and by productive enterprises, with the active collaboration of families in their maintenance and integral development. With a poor education for the poor, Venezuela has no future. Unfortunately education in all sectors and levels is undergoing a great crisis.
We Jesuits work together with tens of thousands of people, animated by life, vocation and work “for the greater glory of God.” Jesus teaches us that the greatest glory of God is that men and women live in dignity and that this new life cannot be built with hatred and death. We appreciate your generous work in difficult conditions and with precarious economic resources.
At this time Venezuelans are not clamoring for the change of the Constitution, but for its fulfillment. As the Bishops rightly said, at present a Constituent Assembly is unnecessary and counterproductive: “What the people need and demand, in the first place, is food, medicines, security, peace and just elections.”
Our following of Jesus in this tragic hour calls us to focus the Ignatian motto “in all things, to love and to serve” on overcoming this agony rapidly and on spiritual renewal committed to reconciliation and encounter as builders of the new Venezuela of hope and life.
We ask the Holy Spirit to confirm us in the construction of a country with the possibility of a dignified life for all.
Rafael Garrido, S.J.
Provincial of the Society of Jesus in Venezuela