The Venezuelan bishop of Merida and current apostolic administrator of Caracas, Cardinal Baltazar Porras Cardozo, stood tall and firm while rejecting the validity of President Nicolas Maduro’s recent appeal for Vatican diplomacy. Maduro had written to the pope this week seeking his help amid an escalating violent opposition to his socialist government which has all but destroyed the country’s economy and thrust millions of people into abject poverty.
Cardinal Porras publicly denounced Maduro’s letter to Pope Francis – of which the Vatican’s Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin confirmed receipt on Feb. 4.
Porras was quoted on Argentina’s Radio Continental that such a request was basically immaterial — like “a blank sheet of paper….(with) nothing concrete to discuss – una hoja en blanco para conversar, pero conversar de qué [?]”.
What’s more, Cardinal Porras blasted Maduro’s letter as having only “cosmetic” value, that is to say, a desperate attempt to help make the dictator look good as more and more people and nations openly support Juan Guaidò, who was recently declared interim-president by Venezuela’s National Assembly. Maduro is trying to give the impression that he can count Pope Francis as among his friends. At present, Maduro’s allies are countries like Russia, Iran, Bolivia and China.
Nonetheless, Porras said the papal mediation request was above all invalid, because Maduro completely bypassed the Venezuelan bishops’ conference’s protocol procedures for communicating directly with the Vatican, even if Pope Francis while visiting nearby Panama called for an urgent peaceful solution to the crisis and said on his return flight to Rome that he was frightened by imminent “bloodshed” that would be caused by civil war.
In an ACI Prensa article, translated from the original Spanish by CNA, Porras explained: “We are the first ones who have to take responsibility. We’ve told the government through the spokesman for the bishops’ conference that it’s fine that they want to address the Holy Father, but first they should go through us because there is total harmony (between us) and there’s nothing they’re going to do there (with the Vatican) that’s different.”
Porras’s courageous words were emboldened by those of the recently retired Cardinal Archbishop of Caracas, Jorge Urosa Savino, who stated categorically a few days ago that Maduro and his corrupt administration absolutely “must step down” ( “deben abandonar el poder”) in order to avoid further death, destruction, and the exodus of Venezuelans from their nation.
A Venezuelan priest in Rome, and current student scholarship recipient of the Acton Institute at the Pontifical Lateran University, agreed with both of the Venezuelan cardinals’ tough stances. Rev. Alberto Marquez, from the Archdiocese of Valencia, said that any mediation with Maduro and the Pope “must occur through the Venezuelan bishops, because they actually have the best strategies and means to offer humanitarian assistance” which is now being blocked at the Colombian border by tanker trucks and fences.
“I lost my own uncle last week who failed to receive his ordinary pharmaceuticals”, he said.
“The Church’s aid is much better than what the State or any public system can offer…and with immediate effect”, Marquez said. “It is really a question of proper application of the Church’s own teaching on subsidiarity” whereby local crises must be addressed and are best remedied by those who are closest to the problems themselves.
“Our bishops are nearer to the problems at hand and can, therefore, propose better solutions than distant authorities,” he said.
Lastly, Marquez said that Cardinal Porras is surely concerned that the Venezuelan government is trying to “buy time” with yet another vain attempt to bring the Vatican or Pope into new negotiations – which the Cardinal himself said merely amounted to “mockery” of the Catholic Church in the recent past.
“For Porras, there is surely nothing left to negotiate right now. And just like his brother Cardinal Urosa, he believes that Maduro and his evil regime simply must leave before any concrete improvement can be made to our country’s tragic circumstances,” he said.