Venezuelan Archbishop Chides Chávez's Supporters

CARACAS, Venezuela, JULY 13, 2003 ( A bishop defended the Church for speaking out regarding the nation’s crisis and accused supporters of President Hugo Chávez of plotting to create divisions within the Church and discredit its leaders.

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Church leaders “cannot be spectators” in Venezuela’s political crisis, Archbishop Baltazar Porras Cardozo told the conference’s annual assembly on Thursday, according to the Associated Press.

The archbishop said Chávez allies were trying to portray “bishops, priests and laypersons as people without morals, (as) thieves” to alienate the faithful from leaders and provoke “a crisis in the Church,” according to AP.

Last Monday, police fired tear gas and shotgun pellets to disperse Chávez supporters, who threw stones and firecrackers at the cathedral in Caracas, where the faithful were mourning the death of Cardinal Ignacio Antonio Velasco García, Reuters reported. The 74-year-old archbishop of Caracas had died of cancer.

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