In Venezuela, Attacks Mounting Against the Church

Episcopate Will Brief the Vatican

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CARACAS, Venezuela, OCT. 1, 2002 ( The president of the Venezuelan episcopal conference is poised to report to Vatican authorities personally on recent aggressions against Church representatives.

“The Vatican is abreast of the country’s situation, but the most recent incidents will be discussed there,” Archbishop Baltazar Porras said Sunday, before traveling to Rome, according to press reports.

The situation in Venezuela is getting worse, according to the archbishop. There is “no respect for persons or institutions; tolerance is” disappearing, he said.

One recent attack was the attempt to kill Father Juan Manuel Fernández on Sept. 18. He and an acolyte were wounded by gunshots while they were traveling in a car. The archbishop complained that the crime is not being investigated.

Last Wednesday, groups supporting President Hugo Chávez verbally attacked Archbishop Porras in the Legislative Council of the state of Merida, where his archdiocese is.

Speaking to the press, Archbishop Porras said: “The deaths in Sur del Lago, the aggressions against the president of the Supreme Court of Justice, Ivan Rincón Urdaneta … and to my person are evidence of the language of violence, irrationality, fanaticism and intolerance.”

Archbishop Porras announced that the national assembly of the bishops’ conference will discuss the matter Oct. 17 and 18.

“People feel anxiety over the general situation of the country where violence, poverty, hunger, fear, intimidation and unrest mount because of the absence of law and institutionalization, which fosters the flowering of anarchy,” he said.

“Given the climate of uncertainty and conflict, lack of social respect for persons and institutions, we are going down a path that does not help the coexistence of all Venezuelans to attain greater well-being,” he said.

Archbishop Porras said that this is the first time in the democratic era that the Church is the target of attacks. “During the era of the guerrillas, there were only verbal exchanges but it never led to attacks,” he recalled.

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