New Venezuelan cardinal says country’s crisis prompted red hat – Crux: Covering all things Catholic
“The Holy Father has shown a special interest for Venezuela,” Porras told journalists Nov. 15.
“I think that never as now, here in the Vatican, have there been senior leaders who have had a direct or close relationship with the reality of Venezuela,” he said, adding that “undoubtedly the situation of the country” is what influenced the Pope’s decision to name him cardinal.
This round of consistory red-hatters “is a bit special” in the context of the Jubilee of Mercy, he said, noting that the majority of the cardinals elevated into the College of Cardinals are “’outsiders,’ we come from dioceses or sees which traditionally have never had cardinals.”
On October 9 Pope Francis announced that Porras and 16 other priests and bishops would be named cardinals November 19, the eve of the close of the Jubilee of Mercy. His nomination makes him one of just two cardinal-electors from Venezuela, meaning he is eligible to vote in the next conclave, alongside fellow Venezuelan Cardinal Jorge Urosa Savino.
Porras, Archbishop of Merida, spoke to journalists about his nomination in the context of Venezuela’s current social and economic situation November 15, just days before he was elevated as cardinal by Pope Francis.
He recalled receiving a letter from the pope, which didn’t simply offer congratulations, but provided “a program” for how to carry out ministry in his new role.
The letter, he said, cautioned against getting “carried away” by the excitement and compliments for his appointment. To be a cardinal, it read, “is not for a worldly joy, but to know that it’s a responsibility that has to do mainly with the poor.”
Porras spoke about the significance of having two electors from Venezuela for the first time, which he said is due to the fact that the Church is “the strongest and most unified” institution in Venezuela.
“The loss of institutions in Venezuela is very serious. Everything works discretionally in power,” he said, noting that the Church in Venezuela “has been a very critical voice in denouncing the problems that exist in the country.”
Venezuela is currently on the point of a humanitarian emergency in which fundamental necessities are inaccessible and many, including children, die due to the lack of basic foods and medicines.
In the aftermath of Chavez’s stormy reign and the takeover of his successor, Nicolas Maduro in 2013, Venezuela has been marred by violence and social and economic upheaval. Poor economic policies, including strict price controls, coupled with high inflation rates, have resulted in a severe lack of basic necessities such as toilet paper, milk, flour, diapers and medicines.
Venezuela’s socialist government is widely blamed for the crisis. Since 2003, price controls on some 160 products, including cooking oil, soap and flour, have meant that while they are affordable, they fly off store shelves only to be resold on the black market at much higher rates.
The Venezuelan government is known to be among the most corrupt in Latin America, and violent crime in the country has spiked since Maduro took office after former president Chavez died from cancer in 2013. The regime is known to have committed gross abuses, including violence, against those who don’t share their political ideologies.
When it comes to the stance of the Church in the crisis, Porras noted that since the bishops frequently speak out against the Maduro regime, they are labeled as siding with the opposition. However, he stressed that “The Church in Venezuela is not with the opposition, it’s with the people.”
“The hierarchy is with the people,” he said, noting that according to documentation from 1531 when Venezuela first received a bishop until now, the Church has always pointed out the problems that need to be solved.