By Carlos Camacho
CARACAS -- Communism was denounced as a failure, thousands chanted anti-Maduro slogans and government officials were attacked with fruit and forced to flee: Welcome to one of the largest Catholic shows of faith in the world, the 2018 "Divina Pastora" procession in Barquisimeto, Lara state, Central Venezuela.
"The mayority of our people, we do not believe in the failed socialism, communism," said Monsignor Antonio Lopez Castillo, Archbishop of Barquisimeto, during the homily at the end of the 161st "Divina Pastora" parade, which ended in Santa Rosa, a small colonial "pueblo" on the outskirts of Barquisimeto proper.
"The people are hungry. They have no food. The children are dying, as well as the elderly, by the lack of medication. People don't have spare parts to keep their cars running. I am worried that all of this is happening."
The stage from which Governor Carmen Melendez, high military officials and other pro-Nicolas Maduro officials were watching the procession in Barquisimeto Sunday was pelted with oranges, tangerines and mangoes, as demonstrators chanted the opposition's slogan: "and it will fall, and it will fall, this government will fall!"
Militia can be seen trying to catch the objects in mid-air while VIPs vacated the premises. The incident took place hours before Monsignor Lopez's words.
Lopez also asked for divine protection from totalitarism: May the Virgin "Mary deliver us from falling in with totalitarian systems, which prevent the people from being free and dignified. Long live our people, with dignity, those who want to live in a true democracy!", Monsignor said during the homily.
Later, again referring to the shortage of medicines and food, Monsignor Lopez said "I feel an enormous pain." The clergyman confirmed that he wished for "prosperity and peace", adding that "we believe in democracy, and that is why I, as a shepherd, will never stay silent."
The monsignor said the Venezuelan Constitution is currently being disrespected, and urged the flock (estimated in several hundred thousand worshippers by local media): "We should respect the Constitution, so that it isn't vandalized. Long live the Constitution!"
Near the end of the homily, Monsignor Lopez asked the flock to join him in prayer to secure "true democracy"and a "free Venezuela", invoking again the Virgin Mary, which Venezuelan Catholics consider to be consubstantiated with the "Divina Pastora".
“Mary is an example of prayer, dear people, and prayer can achieve anything. Let's keep on asking for and praying. The dignified people wants to live in a true democracy!"
After praying for the freedom of Venezuela's 200-plus political prisoners, he finished by saying: "Long live freedom! Long live a free Venezuela!".