In a letter to Cardinal Baltazar Porras Cardozo, Pope Francis expresses his closeness to the Venezuelan people, who are suffering because of the pandemic and poverty.

By Robin Gomes

Pope Francis has sent a brief message to Venezuelan Cardinal Baltazar Porras Cardozo, Archbishop of Merida and apostolic administrator of Caracas, on the occasion of his name day on January 6. In his letter, the Holy Father expressed his closeness to the Venezuelan people, who in recent years have been the victim of a heavy humanitarian and socio-economic crisis, aggravated today by the Covid-19 pandemic.

A father’s heart

“May God continue to give you strength and parrhesia so that with a father’s heart you know how to accompany and comfort His holy faithful people, tried by the suffering caused by the scourge of the pandemic, the arrogance of the powerful and the growing poverty that strangles them”, the Pope wrote.

Recalling Balthasar

The cardinal is named after Balthasar, one of the Three Magi, also referred to as the Wise Men from the East.  Balthasar, together with Melchior and Gaspar, visited Jesus after His birth, bearing gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.  Catholics mark their visit to baby Jesus on the feast of the Epiphany, 6 January. The event commemorates the first manifestation of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, represented by the Magi.

Noting that the feast of the Epiphany is the “the day of the manifestation of the humility of God who becomes light that defeats the darkness that covers the world”, Pope Francis greeted the Venezuelan cardinal and offered his prayer to the Lord for him and his ministry as a bishop. Finally, he imparted his apostolic blessing and entrusted him to the protection of the Virgin Mary and Saint Joseph and to the patronage of the holy and wise king Balthazar.

Greetings from Vatican officials

The Pope’s letter was also accompanied by a “cordial congratulation” from Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, who was Apostolic Nuncio to Venezuela before Pope Francis called him to the Vatican on 15 October 2013 to serve as Secretary of State. The Substitute for the Secretariat of State, Venezuelan Archbishop Edgar Peña Parra, also took the opportunity to express his “consideration and esteem” to Cardinal Porras.

Bishops’ plenary meeting

This week, Cardinal Porras Cardozo is participating in the assembly of the Venezuelan Bishops’ Conference (CEV) that began on Monday as a virtual event because of the pandemic.   Besides reviewing the state of affairs of the country, the bishops will be discussing the Second National Pastoral Assembly, which will be held this year, after it was cancelled last year due to the global epidemic. The traditional Pastoral Exhortation of CVE is expected on 11 January, the closing of the plenary session.

Venezuela’s crisis

With a 17.5% share of the entire global oil resource, Venezuela has the largest fossil-fuel reserves in the world. Yet, the South American nation has been in the grip of an economic crisis for years now with hyperinflation one of its major problems.  This has triggered shortages in food and medicine, forcing more than five million Venezuelans to migrate to other countries in recent years.

This has blown into a political crisis with the government of President Nicolás Maduro and the opposition headed by  Juan Guaidó locked in a bitter power struggle. Guaidó declared himself president on 23 January 2019.

The country’s ruling Socialist Party on Tuesday inaugurated a parliament controlled by allies of President Nicolas Maduro, while the opposition convened a rival committee of legislators in a virtual session, following disputed elections on Dec. 6.

Venezuela is also struggling to contain the Covid-19 pandemic and has recorded a total of over 115,000 cases, with 1,052 deaths.

Source: Vatican News