Church attacked by Maduro loyalists after Mass, Venezuelan bishop says
While protests against Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro raged across the country, National Guard forces loyal to the embattled head of state launched tear gas at churchgoers attending Mass at a local parish.
In a letter published May 2 by Fides, the news agency of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, Bishop Mario del Valle Moronta Rodríguez of San Cristóbal said chaos erupted in Our Lady of Fatima Church when two National Guard members entered the parish on motorcycles as Mass was concluding.
The bishop said that subsequently, “a horde of 40 Bolivarian National Guard members,” led by a general known as Ochoa, tried to enter the church and berated the pastor, Fr. Jairo Clavijo, after he forbid them from entering.
“Not pleased with that, the members of the Bolivarian National Guard launched tear-gas bombs in the church, causing an immediate evacuation of the sacred place where there was a good number of faithful, including many elderly people,” Moronta said.
In the ensuing chaos, he added, a religious sister in the church fainted.
Archbishop José Luis Azuaje Ayala of Maracaibo, president of the Venezuelan bishops’ conference, denounced acts of “repression and violence” committed by Maduro loyalists and pleaded for peace.
“The number of wounded and detained continually increase,” Azuaje said. “We ask for respect for dignity and the human rights of citizens as well as the freedom to protest peacefully. We ask that the repression may cease.”
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