Facing Into Venezuela's Ongoing Crisis

Catholics Must Take a Stand, Says Theologian

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CARACAS, Venezuela, JULY 6, 2005 (Zenit.org).- Catholics in Venezuela must address the challenge of a Communist authoritarian government, says a director at a school of theology.

Professor Rafael Luciani, of the Andres Bello Catholic University, said, “We must be really conscious of the gravity of the present political situation, especially in its clearly authoritarian, centralized and populist orientation and its Castro-Communist ideology.”

Opponents of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez assailed as fraudulent the results of a referendum last August that ensured he would stay in office until 2006.

Two days after the referendum, Archbishop Baltazar Porras Cardozo, president of the Episcopate, expressed his “enormous concern” over the way the results of the vote — to keep Chávez in power — were made public.

Chávez’s reign has been marked by cordial ties with Fidel Castro’s government and verbal attacks against the Catholic Church.

“As Christians,” Luciani said in an interview with ZENIT, “we cannot accept the imposition of any means for allegedly noble ends, given that means and ends must coincide if they are to humanize. Otherwise, there is dehumanization through the purchase of consciences for money, of votes for food, and of values for individual interests.”

“More than ever, we Catholics must raise our voices as true prophets in the midst of this sad situation and direct our actions in favor of true liberty, which humanizes and fraternizes.”

Socialist ideology

Luciani, who holds a doctorate in dogmatic theology from the Gregorian University of Rome, explained that “Despite its being a Latin American country, Venezuela has always been known for being among the first three countries of largest oil production in the world.

“Venezuela’s present situation is very critical, given that after 40 years of continuous democracy we are faced with a government inspired by radical socialist ideology, which looks to the leader of the Cuban revolution as an example, and which has increasingly been controlling the public and private realms of the economic, social and political life of the country.”

“The present regime has caused continuous confrontations with the Catholic Church, as well as with other institutions that raise their prophetic voices. We are faced with a political regime with a high degree of centralized and authoritarian inspiration, which puts at risk the achievements and goals of a democracy that cost so dearly in our history.”

Luciani added: “In all public opinion polls the Church appears in the two first places of credibility, compared to the rest of the institutions involved in the country’s public life. Her voice, expressed through the Venezuelan bishops’ conference, has always been consistent and clear in addressing the political danger we are going through.”

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