Amid the violent protests against Venezuela’s socialist dictator, Nicolas Maduro, who refuses to leave office, members of the country’s national guard stormed the doors of a Catholic church in San Cristóbal.
As a Mass was concluding Thursday, two national guard members entered Our Lady of Fatima Church on motorcycles, according to the Catholic News Service.
Soon after, according to Bishop Mario del Valle Moronta Rodriguez, around 40 Bolivian National Guard members tried entering the church and began berating the pastor, Fr. Jairo Clavijo, who blocked them from coming inside.
“Not pleased with that,” the bishop recalled, “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.”
The chaos even led one congregant to faint.
“This event is very serious,” Moronta continued, “and it is an attack against the Catholic Church. I hold [Bolivian National Guard] Gen. Ochoa and the military authorities in the region responsible for this vile event that speaks to the will of the attackers who do not respect human dignity nor fear God.”
The Thursday attack on the Catholic congregation comes on the heels of a deadly show of force by the Venezuelan military, whose members acted on Maduro’s behalf.
Shocking footage showed a military vehicle plowing down civilians protesting the Maduro regime. The protests were initially encouraged by opposition leader Juan Guaidó, who has been recognized by the U.S. as the rightful leader of the socialist country.
Guaidó, for his part, is sticking his ground. He said this week it’s clear Venezuelans “are in favor of change and the Constitution,” later tweeting “the moment is now.”
Please continue to pray for Venezuelans and the world leaders who are working on the frontlines to resolve the crisis in this once-thriving nation.