What a difference between the Catholic Church in Cuba and the Church in Venezuela. In Cuba, the leadership of the Church has allowed itself to be purchased by the atheistic Castro regime and has willingly become a tool of oppression for the dictatorship. In contrast, the Catholic Church in Venezuela has refused to abandon its flock and continues to fight against tyranny and oppression.
In Venezuela, the Catholic Church endures among a revolution’s ruins
Political campaigns are supposed to be exciting. They are often contentious.
What they are not supposed to be is macabre, but that is how the last campaign of Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez in 2013 can only be described—the slow-motion suicide of a man bloated and bald from disease, careening recklessly around the country in the bed of a pickup truck. By the end, he could barely walk.
President Chavez’s last campaign was fundamentally morbid. Gone was talk of the extraordinary plans of yesteryear—they had all been tried anyway. No more the dizzying promises from headier days when the revolution had energy, when it had money and purpose. There were not even any appeals to the future; even the most fervent of disciples knew in their hearts that this was in fact not a campaign, but a farewell tour.
After 14 years of business seizures and petro-dependency, the “Bolivarian” project was ending. No surprise there. The national economy was just about completely dependent on oil exports for foreign exchange; the currency was in a shambles—even the “strong bolivar” launched by Mr. Chavez in 2008 had lost two-thirds of its value. A spiraling murder rate brought Venezuela into grim competition with the likes of Baghdad and Medellin in the 1980s.
Two generations were stolen as students were put to studying Fidel Castro and memorizing the poems of Che Guevara. Two million Venezuelans were put to flight to Panama City and Costa Rica and Miami and New York and London and Paris and Dubai—6.4 percent of the national population. Crime became an economic life blood. Some 41 percent of cocaine stock destined for European markets is now trafficked across the sacred waters of the Orinoco or to a first stop in West Africa from the main airport’s presidential runway. The official mantra, “socialism or death,” played back in an endless loop became all that was left of the caudillo’s failed regime.
And through all that turmoil the church endured.
I have a friend who once was an archeologist. Not a famous man making history-shaping discoveries, but a simple community man, laboring for his municipal government, approving building permits and overseeing excavations for the odd basement or new minimart. His humble responsibility was to assure that no part of his nation’s heritage was inadvertently destroyed—surely an old world problem, one for places where everything is infused with the history of the ancients and civilizations remembered and forgotten, resting one upon the other in layers of birth, vibrancy, decadence and decay. One uncovered layer might be thought to tell the whole story, but my friend learned that it is always wiser to go deeper, to seek out the next layer and the one under that; each civilization building upon the previous and adding to it something new, the story of an irrepressible society.
The Catholic Church is like that. It draws deeply from what Hebrews calls a “great a cloud of witnesses” (12:1), nestling the stories of the terrestrial tribulations of the oppressed within the epic struggle of people to live in freedom and practice their faith in peace. And as she has braced herself against the surging tides of totalitarianism in Venezuela, the layers of her resilience—lain carefully during years defying the darkness—show themselves again.
Read it all HERE.