Venezuelan Church Gets Words of Solidarity from Bishops Worldwide

Following Attacks by the Country´s Chief Executive

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CARACAS, Venezuela, FEB. 1, 2002 ( Messages of solidarity from bishops around the world have been sent to the Church in Venezuela, victim of President Hugo Chávez´s harsh verbal attacks.

«We are surprised and profoundly lament the delicate situation being endured by the Church in Venezuela,» states a letter addressed to the Venezuelan episcopal conference by a group of Catholic leaders gathered in Washington, D.C., for a forum on economics.

«It is always dangerous to mock the Church, its doctrine, life and pastors, going to the extreme of including the Holy Father´s representative,» the letter adds.

The letter was signed by Cardinal Bernard Law, archbishop of Boston; Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, archbishop of Washington, D.C.; and Cardinal Oscar Rodríguez, archbishop of Tegucigalpa and president of the Honduran episcopal conference.

Other episcopal signatories included Wilton Gregory, president of the U.S. episcopal conference; William Skyland, vice president; Brendan O´Brien, vice president of the Canadian episcopal conference; Peter Schonenback, secretary-general; Colombia´s Jorge Jiménez, president of the Latin American bishops´ council (CELAM); Mexico´s Carlos Aguiar, vice president of CELAM; Laurent Monsengwo, president of the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar; and Oswald Colman, secretary of the Federation of Asian Episcopal Conferences.

«We accompany you with our prayers, convinced of the Lord Jesus Christ´s words: ´Do not be afraid. I shall be with you until the end of time,´» the bishops´ letter concludes.

On Sunday, President Chávez referred to the Church as a «tumor» because it does not support uncritically his «revolution.» On several occasions, without offering any evidence, Chávez has said the bishops are part of the country´s corrupt class.

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