Venezuelan Bishops Reject Chávez's Accusations

CARACAS, Venezuela, SEPT. 23, 2003 ( The Venezuelan bishops’ conference rejected accusations by President Hugo Chávez who charged the Church hierarchy with «bold-faced» lying and with supporting his political opponents.

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«The president’s attack seeks to deflect public opinion from the real problems that afflict our society,» Archbishop Baltazar Porras, president of the episcopate, told Union Radio.

Chávez’s accusations came at a time when the country’s political opposition launched a campaign calling for a referendum to curtail his term of office.

During his Sunday radio-television program, Chávez accused the hierarchy of the Catholic Church in Venezuela of having become the «spokesman of the opposition,» and of being «immoral» and «unworthy.»

Catholic bishops and churches in Venezuela have been the object of attacks and acts of violence in recent months.

In July, supporters of the governing party turned out at this city’s cathedral and disrupted the funeral of Cardinal Ignacio Velasco, archbishop of Caracas.

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