WASHINGTON (August 13, 2004) -– Bishop Wilton D. Gregory, President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, has expressed the solidarity of Catholics in the United States with the people of Venezuela as they prepare for a presidential recall referendum on August 15.
"The problems of Latin America are ones we share as our own, for so many Latin Americans have made their home in the United States that we cannot be indifferent to their concerns and yearnings for peace and for democracy," Bishop Gregory said in a letter to Archbishop Baltazar E. Porras Cardozo of Mérida, president of the Venezuelan bishops' conference.
The full text of Bishop Gregory's letter follows:
"I write to thank you for the Pastoral Exhortation issued by the 82nd Assembly of the Bishops of Venezuela last month entitled Referendum, Conscience and Responsibility in which you call upon the Venezuelan people to reflect on the political situation which your country is experiencing.
"Your invitation for people to participate in the Recall Referendum peacefully, with community spirit and in freedom is to be praised. I share the concerns of those who view the future with a hope grounded, as you write, in 'an understanding among all the citizens and especially between the political forces of the government and those of the opposition.' True understanding, you continue, 'presupposes above all reciprocity, respect and openness to different points of view, as it should be in any democracy.'
"The problems of Latin America are ones we share as our own, for so many Latin Americans have made their home in the United States that we cannot be indifferent to their concerns and yearnings for peace and for democracy.
"In the name of the Bishops of the United States, we join with you and all the faithful of Venezuela in your call to prayers to Our Lady during the novena leading up to the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin.
"With assurance of our solidarity and continued prayers, I remain
Sincerely yours in Christ,
Most Reverend Wilton D. Gregory
Bishop of Belleville