“Fundamental pillars of democracy are being undermined”

Bolivia, the poorest country on the South American continent, faces crises. Poverty, a lack of environmental awareness and a president who makes his own rules are causing Bishop Overbeck’s concerns to grow.

Adveniat Bishop Franz-Josef Overbeck expressed concern about political developments in Bolivia. "The basic pillars of a democratic state, such as the separation of powers, are being undermined," the president of the Adveniat Episcopal Commission said Monday at the end of a trip to the South American country. President Evo Morales has instrumentalized the judiciary in order to be able to run again for the presidential election, although the constitution forbids this, said the Bishop of Essen.

In 2016, Morales held a referendum on the possibility of a fourth term in office; the majority of Bolivians decided against it, and he subsequently had the constitution changed in his favor.

Bolivia’s catch dedicates itself to protecting "Mother Earth"

Although the protection of "Mother Earth" is enshrined in Bolivia’s constitution, Morales is also pushing ahead with an economic policy that is detrimental to the environment and indigenous peoples, Overbeck criticized. "Water dams are being built on the land of indigenous peoples without consulting them first," said the Essen bishop. This contradicts a United Nations International Labor Organization (ILO) agreement to which Bolivia is a signatory and which requires consultation with affected indigenous groups, the bishop stressed.

During his trip, Overbeck participated in the opening of the 5. The bishop of Essen took part in the 12th American Missionary Congress in Santa Cruz and also met with the Bolivian Bishops’ Conference. "The Church in Bolivia is facing massive challenges, mainly due to the ongoing migration from the rural areas of the highlands to the big cities, but also to the lowlands," said the clerical. In light of declining vocations to the priesthood in Bolivia and the decrease in the number of foreign priests and religious in the country, Overbeck said it is important to strengthen the role of the laity in pastoral ministry.

Adveniat supports the training of catechists

The Latin America relief organization Adveniat therefore supports, for example, training programs offered by the church for catechists. It is also necessary to develop new forms of pastoral care in large cities. Popular religiosity plays a major role in this, said the bishop. It is formative in Bolivia and mixed with numerous elements of indigenous traditions. He said it is important to continue working on an "indigenous theology".

At the meeting with the Bolivian bishops, Overbeck reportedly also spoke with Toribio Ticona Porco, who was recently appointed a cardinal by Pope Francis at the age of 81.

The cardinal, who grew up in poor circumstances, is considered a man of the people. "Bolivia is the poorest country on the South American continent," Overbeck said. "It is important that with Cardinal Ticona, an upright fighter for the poor in Bolivia has received this tribute."

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