CARACAS, Venezuela, JULY 19, 2010 (Zenit.org).- The Venezuelan bishops are denouncing the “unjust aggressions” of President Hugo Chávez against the Catholic Church.
Chávez leveled verbal attacks against Cardinal Jorge Urosa Savino, archbishop of Caracas, and the entire Venezuelan episcopate during the nation’s July 5 independence day celebrations.
The cardinal issued a written response on July 9, in which he spoke out against the “unconstitutional” and “illegal” actions of Chávez, in violation of the rights of the Venezuelan people.
Cardinal Urosa, who was in Rome at the time, returned to Caracas on July 11. The next day, the Venezuelan bishops’ conference issued a statement at the close of their plenary assembly, expressing support for the cardinal and concern over the aggression of the state authorities.
“We reject the reiterated and unjust aggressions by the president of the republic against persons and institutions, wounding also the religious sentiment of several confessions,” stated the bishops’ communiqué.
It underlined the expectation that “top executives and officials” would “give example of the respect that all the citizens deserve.”
Yet again, last Wednesday, Chávez reiterated his insults. As well, the Venezuelan national assembly issued a declaration denouncing the cardinal and his teachings, which it called “interference.”
The national assembly’s communiqué also denounced the July 12 statement from the bishops’ conference, as well as what it called “historical conduct against the people,” as “the most irrefutable proof of the role of political interlocutors, assumed by top leaders of the Venezuelan Catholic Church.”
The declaration leveled a series of accusations against the Catholic Church in general and referred to “this ecclesial oligarchy that, linked to Fascist sectors of the Venezuelan opposition, tries to seduce the Christian people, the Venezuelan people through lies, to provoke a violent and de facto demise of the revolutionary, democratic process of transformation that for 11 years has been building between the people and the Commander President Hugo Chávez, toward Bolivarian Socialism.”
It accused the prelates of “constituting themselves in manifest interference in political affairs, as well as aggression against the state’s public powers.”
In his July 9 statement, Cardinal Urosa had pointed out that “going beyond the national constitution,” Chávez “and his government want to lead the country on the path of Marxist Socialism, which monopolizes all spaces, is totalitarian, and leads to a dictatorship, not even of the proletariat, but of the leadership that governs.”
“Going against the popular will, which on Dec. 2, 2007, rejected the proposal of nationalizing and the socialist reform of the national constitution, [and] through unconstitutional laws, there is an attempt to implant in Venezuela a Marxist regime, as the president has openly proclaimed on repeated occasions,” the prelate stated.
“Concerned about installing a Marxist Socialist system, the government neglects its primary constitutional tasks: to protect the security of the people hit especially in the poorest sectors by violence and delinquency; to promote better care in the field of health, to build and maintain the infrastructure of highways and means of transport,” among other things, Cardinal Urosa warned.
Nevertheless, upon his return to Caracas, the cardinal told journalists in the airport that he does not want to continue the controversy. He said: “That’s not my role. I advocate peace and union between brothers. I hope that good sense will prevail.”
Dozens of young people awaited him with posters expressing their support, while pronouncing slogans calling him “courageous.”
The cardinal, upon seeing them, noted, “This reiterates for me the commitment of faith that the youth have assumed with the Church.”
The Venezuelan bishops’ conference also called for an end to the controversy and a promotion of “serene dialogue, as necessary means for the authentic coexistence of citizens.”
In a July 12 press conference, Archbishop Diego Padrón of Cumana affirmed: “The cardinal wants an end to that dilemma. We must turn the page and succeed in understanding one another despite the differences of ideas.”
He appealed to the authorities “to lay aside the attitude of confrontation.”
However, on Wednesday, Chávez asked the foreign ministry department to evaluate the “existing convention” with the Vatican, as he noted that it allows privileges for the Catholic Church over other religions.
According to the president, the instrument subscribed with the Holy See in 1964 “violates the constitution.”
Numerous Venezuelans are expressing support for the Catholic Church in light of the controversy.
Luis Ugalde, the former rector of Andres Bello Catholic University, said: “I wish to say that I am totally in agreement with the cardinal’s speaking about the danger of the road the government wishes to take, which is Communism; he simply recognizes what the president has said, that we must go to the ‘sea of happiness’ of Cuban Communism; the cardinal has absolutely not invented anything.”
The priestly council of the Archdiocese of Caracas released a statement affirming, “We lament and reject profoundly that the president of the republic, president of all Venezuelans, uses the media […] to offend and expose to public ridicule a Venezuelan citizen.”
Other civil representatives also expressed their rejection of the attacks on the cardinal.
Sonia Blanco of the Women’s’ National Front lamented, “The national assembly, instead of legislating on the grave problems that afflict the country, joined the chorus of merciless attacks against the cardinal of the Catholic Church.”
Rosaura Sanz, candidate for deputy of the national assembly, stated that “instead of pretending to make a Roman circus by interpellating Urosa,” the government “should be investigating in depth those responsible for the outrage of hundreds of tons of food that rotted in Venezuelan ports.”
For Yenni De Freitas, national leader of A New Time, on behalf of the Women’s Movement for Social Democracy, the attack against the cardinal and the Catholic Church is due to the fact that Venezuela ceased to be democratic, plural and free and has instead become a Communist country.
According to the deputy of the Democratic Bloc, Beatriz Mora, Chávez wants “silent kneeling cardinals who support the process.”
“All the time we are surprised by the continuous attacks of the government on the Catholic Church, but it is no secret to anyone that the Church represents a solid barrier for Communism and hence the frontal attack on the president,” she said.
Tomás Guanipa, national leader of the First Justice Party, said: “We demand respect for the cardinal and for all Venezuelans. You, president, are an employee of all Venezuelans who live in this country, not their owner. We are in solidarity with [Cardinal] Jorge Urosa Savino.”
Pablo Pérez, governor of Zulia, said that the president “is not offending Cardinal Urosa, he is offending an important institution such as the Church, which is thousands of years old and which has given spiritual satisfaction to thousands of persons in the world.”
The association Women for Liberty rejected the “virulent” attacks and insults against Cardinal Urosa, “who has addressed, as he should, the Christian community denouncing respectfully but forcefully the violation of the constitution which President Chávez incurs daily.”
The association’s communiqué asserted: “No previous government to that of Hugo Chávez in the history of Venezuela dared to insult the Catholic Church as an institution or some of its members, a disagreeable custom of the chief executive toward the opposition sectors of society.”
Representatives of various institutions of the city of Valencia, Venezuela, also met last week to express their solidarity with Cardinal Urosa.
The Venezuelan bishops’ conference observed that the yearning of the Venezuelan people for a country where dialogue and democracy reign at times is opposed by “the climate of violence and corruption that reigns in many spheres of the life of the country, which has manifested itself above all in insecurity, violent deaths, both on the streets as well as in prisons and the scandalous loss of food and medication.”
The prelates underlined the “fundamental importance” of the parliamentary elections scheduled for Sept. 26.
The elections must represent “an invaluable opportunity to ratify our faith in the authentic sovereignty of the people, with a spirit of openness to the plurality of thoughts, ideas and actions,” they said.
The bishops exhorted citizens to “be involved actively in the election of representatives to the national assembly, through the free, conscious and responsible exercise of the vote.”
Archbishop Padrón called for voting in the forthcoming parliamentary elections “with a clear conscience, knowing that our contribution is very great for stability.”