Venezuela Cardinal Defends Constitution at Assembly

Tells Legislators He Has Citizen’s Rights; Criticizes Certain Laws

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CARACAS, Venezuela, JULY 30, 2010 ( Cardinal Jorge Urosa Savino defended both his right to opine on politics and his defense of human dignity when he addressed the Venezuela National Assembly on Tuesday.

The cardinal, who is archbishop of Caracas and president of the nation’s episcopal conference, was asked to address the assembly after his public statements regarding President Hugo Chávez’s intention to make Venezuela a Marxist socialist state.

Chávez publicly insulted the cardinal early this month, declaring him «unworthy» and accusing him of causing fear among the people. The National Assembly later denounced the cardinal as well.

Cardinal Urosa described his meeting at the National Assembly on Tuesday as cordial and serene, though at times «harsh but with much respect.»

Getting it straight

The 67-year-old cardinal’s address included various citations of the Constitution, clearly outlining his right and duty to participate in the public sphere. He also clarified that the episcopate has long been speaking out about public matters, not only during the years of Chávez’s presidency.
As to his public declarations regarding the president, «I’ve said nothing new,» the cardinal affirmed, «as on several occasions the president has said he is a Marxist, as he did, for example, in this Assembly on Jan. 15, 2010, and he is determined, he says so constantly, to convert Venezuela into a socialist state.»

Cardinal Urosa stated that «to lead us on this path would imply to put aside important principles consecrated in the present Constitution.»

He referred to Central Europe and present-day Cuba in defending his caution. And he listed current laws that he said appear to him to violate the Constitution.

«In general, those laws affect political pluralism, essential for democratic life, as they incorporate the socialist concept, to implant a socialist homeland, which makes obligatory for all Venezuelans an ideology, a system, a party, which is foreign to the spirit and letter of the Constitution, which speaks of the social state of law and justice and propounds political pluralism as one of the essential values,» he said.

«All these laws move in the line of giving more power to the central government and to the presidency of the republic,» the cardinal added, «in detriment of the capacities and the power of the people, of the regions, of the family, of the citizen, and they create an ever more powerful state and government above the action and initiative of the people, of the common citizens.»

Cardinal Urosa concluded by reaffirming that he and his brother bishops will continue to manifest an option for the poor  and service to Venezuelans, as well as a willingness to dialogue.
«I reaffirm my status as a pastor of the Church,» he said, «which I serve in the name of Jesus Christ, with the aim that his ‘Kingdom of truth of life of holiness and of grace, of justice, of love and of peace’ becomes a reality in the hearts of Venezuelans, through faith in God and through coexistence in fraternity and solidarity.»

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