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20170731T1304 10857 CNS VENEZUELA ELECTION UROSA 800Demonstrators clash with riot security forces while rallying against Venezuela President Nicolas Maduro's government July 28 in Caracas. Cardinal Jorge Urosa Savino of Caracas said the nation's government must take the blame for at least 10 deaths related to a controversial election. (CNS photo/Carlos Garcia Rawlins, Reuters)CARACAS, Venezuela (CNS) -- Cardinal Jorge Urosa Savino said the nation's government must take the blame for at least 10 deaths related to a controversial election.

"This is the responsibility of the president of the republic, the high command, and the ministers," Cardinal Urosa told the Caracas newspaper El Nacional July 31. "They will have to explain this to God" and the courts.

Some Venezuelans went to the polls July 30 to elect members of a Constituent Assembly, a 545-member body charged with drafting a new constitution for the country. 

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered on the vote May 1, but political opposition and church leaders have questioned the process, which they say overrepresented pro-government sectors, ensuring a government victory. They have warned that the new constitution could establish a one-party state.

The opposition boycotted the vote and instead called on its supporters to take to the streets in protest.

"The bishops are unanimous in their rejection of this new assembly, and we are asking the government to reconsider," Cardinal Urosa told Venezuela news station Globovision the day before the vote.

On July 27, the bishops reiterated their rejection of the constituent assembly election in a seven-point communique and urged the country's armed forces to avoid more deaths in the streets.

"The primary role of the armed forces is to maintain peace and order so that all parties can act rationally and each side can build bridges to overcome the chaos we are living," the statement said.

For four months, Venezuelans have endured continuous anti-government protests that often ended in clashes with authorities. The conflicts have resulted in at least 125 dead and wounded nearly 2,000 since protests began in April.

Maduro has said the new constitution will bring peace while offering few details on how the document may be structured.

Of the more than 500 delegates selected, only a handful are top government leaders, believed to be those who will lead and make decisions in the new body. Of the others elected, most are widely unknown rank-and-file Socialist Party members.

The bishops have warned that the initiative will only deepen a political and economic crisis in the country. 

A three-year economic recession has resulted in shortages of basic foods and medicines.

"Let us not increase the suffering and anguish of so many people who want to live in peace," said the July 27 statement. The newly elected constituent assembly was to be sworn in in early August.

 

Demonstrators clash with riot security forces while rallying against Venezuela President Nicolas Maduro's government July 28 in Caracas. Cardinal Jorge Urosa Savino of Caracas said the nation's government must take the blame for at least 10 deaths related to a controversial election. (CNS photo/Carlos Garcia Rawlins, Reuters)

alertAt the Spring Assembly of the U.S. bishops, Cardinal Joseph Tobin suggested that a delegation ofbishops go to the border to see for themselves what was happening to newly arrived immigrants, families and children. On July 1 and 2, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the U.S. bishops conference, and five other bishops conducted a pastoral visit to the diocese of Brownsville, Texas. Stops included Mass at the Shrine of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle with the community, a visit to anHHS/OBR Shelter and Mass for the families there, a visit to the Customs and Border Patrol processing center in McAllen, TX, and a press conference at the end of their visit. Catholic News Service accompanied the bishops on their border trip. 

  1. Backgrounder and analysis of the bishops’ trip to the border: Cardinal DiNardo told CNS, “You cannot look at immigration as an abstraction when you meet” the people behind the issue.
  2. At final press conference, Cardinal Daniel Dinardo said the church was willing to be part of any conversation to find humane solutions because even a policy of detaining families together in facilities caused “concern.”
  3. Bishops serve soup to immigrant families at a center run by Catholic Charities and listen to their stories. Scranton Bishop Joseph Bambera said he found hope in hearing the people in the room talk about what’s ahead. They didn’t speak of making money but of finding safety for their children, he said, driven by “the most basic instinct to protect your family.”
  4. At an opening Mass he Basilica of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle-National Shrine near McAllen, Texas, Bishop Daniel Flores of Brownsville told Massgoers, “The bishops are visiting here so they can stop and look and talk to people and understand, especially the suffering of many who are amongst us,”

A delegation of U.S. bishops goes on a fact-finding mission at the U.S.-Mexican border to learn more about Central American immigration detention.

Following their visit to an immigrant detention center, U.S. bishops said they are even more determined to call on Congress for comprehensive immigration reform.