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Amid pandemic, remain united in service, pope tells Venezuelan clergy
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Francis encouraged Venezuela’s bishops and priests to remain united in their pastoral mission to serve Catholics in the country amid the difficulties caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a video message to a virtual meeting of the country’s bishops and priests Jan. 19, the pope encouraged them to not “act alone, isolated, self-sufficient, with hidden agendas” but instead be “humble servants,” especially to the poor and the vulnerable.
“We must revive in life the desire to imitate the Good Shepherd and learn to be ‘servants’ of all, particularly of the less fortunate and often discarded brothers and sisters so that, in this time of crisis, they may feel accompanied, supported, and loved,” he said.
The pope’s call for unity came about a week after Venezuelan bishops released a “State of the Country” message highlighting the country’s political and economic woes that have been exacerbated by the pandemic.
The Venezuelan bishops denounced President Nicolas Maduro’s installation of a new national assembly, saying that the “disqualification of the opposition, intimidation and threats of persecution does not contribute to solving the problems of the people or to creating confidence in the possible restoration of the country.”
“Accompanying and interpreting the feeling of most Venezuelans, we once again insist that the country needs a radical change in political leadership,” the bishops said Jan. 11.
In his message, the pope said the pastoral mission of Venezuela’s priests and bishops should be guided by “love of neighbor and service of one another.”
“These two principles are anchored in the two institutions that Jesus carries out at the Last Supper, and which are the foundation, so to speak, of his message: the Eucharist, to teach love, and the washing of feet, to teach service,” he said. “Love and service together, otherwise it does not go forward.”
Thanking the members of the clergy for their “testimony of love and service,” Pope Francis encouraged them to continue their ministry and to remain united despite the difficulties.”
“Do not be fractured, brothers. Do not break yourselves apart,” the pope said. “There is always the possibility of unity. Just as there is always the possibility of isolating yourselves and creating an attitude of a sectarian heart, outside the unity of the church.”