Church in Venezuela Won't Be Silent, Says Archbishop

Episcopate Urged to Press on Despite Attacks

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CARACAS, Venezuela, JAN. 8, 2004 ( The Church in Venezuela «cannot remain silent» about the country’s crisis, even in the face of attacks and calumnies, says the president of the bishops conference.

In his opening address Monday at the assembly of the Venezuelan episcopal conference, Archbishop Baltazar Porras Cardozo of Merida said that the country is heading toward a dangerous «polarization which is foreign to what an integral democracy should be, open to a multiplicity of options and respect for differences and dissidence.»

Under President Hugo Chávez, «Venezuelan society is attempting to engage in a process of so-called socioeconomic, juridical-political, cultural and even religious changes, which are risky and subversive of all existing structures,» Archbishop Porras lamented.

«Recent history — our own and other people’s — reminds and teaches us that authoritarianism colored by pseudo legality, demagogic and exclusive, generates poverty, fanaticism and violence,» he warned.

In the face of such a crisis, the Church «must not and cannot remain silent, paralyzed by an all too human or frightened prudence because of attacks and calumnies,» the archbishop added.

«We need to proclaim, in season and out of season, the Christian view of man and to work especially to safeguard human dignity in all its dimensions, … struggling for the common good as the creation of the best possible conditions for personal, family and collective life,» he emphasized.

Archbishop Porras recalled John Paul II’s words on the challenges facing a bishop. «In face of those situations of injustice … which inevitably open the door to conflict and death, the bishop is defender of the rights of man created in the image and likeness of God,» the Venezuelan prelate said.

The archbishop also mentioned the recall referendum aimed at Chávez as the «ideal» democratic way to «re-establish harmony in national coexistence.»

«The hope of the greater part of the population is to re-legitimize public powers and open political possibilities for a future where all of us Venezuelans, without exception, have a place,» the prelate said.

«We must not allow ourselves to fall prey to the fatality of having to accept intolerance, exclusion, hatred and violence, as the only way to live,» the president of the Venezuelan episcopate exhorted.

He appealed to all Catholics to engage in a «systematic campaign for reconciliation,» and, in particular, requested educational institutions connected to the Church to intensify «their specifically evangelizing work.»

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