Monday, October 14, 2019

@ the Synod, praying for Ecuador

This morning at the Synod, Pope Francis prayed for Ecuador.  In that country, President Moreno and the leader of the indigenous protest put an end to the protest against the package of austerity measures, including the elimination of fuel subsidies.

Benedetta Capelli filed this report.

Pope Francis recited a prayer for the indigenous communities of Ecuador this morning as he opened the 9th General Congregation to the Synod for the Pan-Amazonian Region. Recalling the importance of cooperating together, he entrusted to Mary the people who lost their lives in the South American country, which has been shaken in recent days by violence but also the wounded, the persecuted, the imprisoned. May you bring peace - said Pope Francis - and accompany them at this time of so much suffering, especially among the natives of Ecuador. Yesterday before the recitation of the Angelus, he had expressed the concern of the Ecuadorian bishops who are participating in the Synod, I encourage - he said - the seeking of social peace, with particular attention to the most vulnerable populations, to the poor and to human rights.

In the last few hours the scenario in the South American country has changed. The government and indigenous leaders have declared an end to the protests which have cost the lives of 7 people in the last 10 days, after reaching an agreement on the austerity measures implemented by Quito to obtain a loan of 4.2 billion dollars from the International Monetary Fund (IMF). President Lenin Moreno has in fact decided to collaborate with indigenous leaders, led by Jaime Vargas, in order to draw up a new package of measures aimed at cutting public spending, increasing revenues and reducing the budget deficit and public debt.

An important step is a move backwards on fuel subsidies, which have been in force for 40 years, and which the president intended to eliminate. On this point, the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (Conaie) had fought a great deal, obtaining the desired result in the last few hours.

Satisfaction was expressed by the President of the Episcopal Conference of Ecuador, His Excellency, Eugenio Arellano Fernandes who is present at the Synod.  During his own interview with Vatican News, His Excellency had expressed his ow doubts about the economic situation of his country.

I am very satisfied - he said - because we know that they have canceled all the measures taken. Social peace and public peace are back in Ecuador. The government is committed to finding a solution, to look for funds in other ways. But we have no money; the previous government stole a lot. And this government has nothing and must find funds to move forward on the ordinary path. They had found this measure which consisted of withdrawing the fuel subsidy; this caused a very large social disorder. They will look for other ways.

What is the Church's solution to finding the funds?

The solution would be a sacrifice, whatever it is.  No one pays willingly for an increase in taxes.

But it would be a sacrifice for everyone, not only for the indigenous people ...

Maybe the VAT will rise a little, I don't know. Maybe the International Monetary Fund will give up a bit taking our needs into account.

However, it was important to have the Pope's support. Was his appeal useful?

It was very important.

In and interview with Vatican News, Patricia Gualinga, indigenous leader of the Quichua people of Sarayaku, Ecuador, said she had spoken with Pope Francis who is very attentive to the events in her country.

Vatican News
You were able to leave Ecuador just last night to attend the Synod, due to the tense situation that had arisen.

Patricia Gualinga
The Pontiff - she explained - told me that he saw that the indigenous peoples did not resort to violence, they stopped the military and what they did was withdraw their weapons and tell them to go in peace. Then they returned them demonstrating in that way that they are not violent but that they want peace. This morning he also prayed for Ecuador and this is very important. We thank Pope Francis and we thank God Almighty because peace has been reached.

Living in peace and continuing to walk together with indigenous peoples: this is the desire expressed to Vatican News by Monsignor Rafael Cob García, Apostolic Vicar of Puyo, Ecuador, after the news of the crisis resolved in his country. "I believe that the solidarity of the bishops - he explained - has been very important, both for the Ecuadorian bishops who have followed step by step the really painful situation that our country has experienced, but also for the other prelates. As Saint Paul says when one member suffers, the whole body suffers with him. The bishops of Latin America and especially of Repam (Panamazonic Network) showed their solidarity in a statement. I believe - he added - that what has been decided by the government and by indigenous leaders gives us hope that Ecuador can live in peace and harmony, as it always has been. We really want everyone to live as brothers and sisters, for the natives and the mestizos to walk together to build the Kingdom of God and to care for our land, the territories that are part of the life of these peoples. This is why we are happy and hope that God will continue to help us and strengthen us to be able to walk together and live in peace and harmony.

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