Church Not Taking Sides in Honduras, Says Cardinal

Thanks Pope for Wisdom in Political Conflict

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ROME, JULY 15, 2009 ( The president of the Honduran episcopal conference says the Church is not on either side of the political crisis under way in that Central American nation.

Cardinal Óscar Rodríguez Maradiaga, archbishop of Tegucigalpa, spoke to Vatican Radio about the ongoing situation in Honduras, where a June 28 coup ousted President Manuel Zelaya, accused by Hondurans of breaking constitutional law with an attempt to extend his term.

The cardinal expressed his appreciation to Benedict XVI, who in speaking of the nation after publicly praying the midday Angelus last Sunday urged dialogue as the path to peace.

«The Holy Father has given us great strength with these words that were so full of wisdom,» Cardinal Rodríguez Maradiaga said. «Logically the Catholic community thanks him and is very content.»

The prelate noted that among the «followers of the preceding regime, there are also many Catholics acting in good faith, since they do not have all the information.»

«The Church,» he added, «is not on anyone’s side. The Church seeks reconciliation, peace, the search for understanding through dialogue.»

Cardinal Rodríguez Maradiaga cited the Gospel adage that a house divided cannot stand and affirmed, «We have to look for unity in what is essential.»

«Political parties can be legitimate, can have a different way of thinking, but this does not in any way justify a violation of the law,» he continued. «If we look back, we find that no law has been respected because the first one in violating it is the highest authority.»

A week after the coup, Zelaya tried to return and retake control of the nation, but his flight was blocked by the military and police who set up obstacles on the runway. Zelaya then met July 7 with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and agreed to mediation by the president of Costa Rica, Óscar Arias Sánchez. Arias is a winner of the Nobel Peace Prize for previous mediation in Latin America.

However, the first round of talks did not give signs of progress. Zelaya has agreed to a second round on Sunday, but threatened to abandon dialogue if the interim government led by Roberto Micheletti doesn’t immediately restore his power.

The international community — and particularly leftist allies such as Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez — have shown support for Zelaya. Meanwhile Micheletti has the support of the Honduran military and legislature, who claim Zelaya automatically renounced his presidency when he moved to extend his term.

For his part, Cardinal Rodríguez Maradiaga urged a «return to God who examines our hearts, to empty them of hate and violence and so that as Honduran brothers and sisters, we can seek the best paths for the future of this nation.»

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