.- Archbishop Baltazar Porras of Merida and President of the Bishops Conference of Venezuela told reporters this week the aim a new federal law on religious freedom is not advancement of other minority religions or associations but rather to “give a whipping” to the Catholic Church.
According to reports, Archbishop Baltazar believes the threats to reduce school subsidies, the overhaul of the country’s treaty with the Vatican and the possible approval of a new religious freedom law are all part of a strategy to silence the Catholic Church, which has been the institution that has most forcefully denounced the excesses of the Chavez government.
Some fundamentalists groups are supporting Chavez’s decision to change laws on religious practice without consulting with the Church, because “other faiths” are emerging in the country.
The Bishops Conference points out, however, that “90% of the 25 million Venezuelans are baptized Catholics.”
“The other 85 faiths legally registered in the country are a minority, but even more importantly, their social impact is very little compared with the activities of the Catholic Church in favor of local communities. This includes education, health care, shelters for the homeless, the elderly, etc,” the Conference said.
Likewise the Bishops underscore that “although the proposal of equally distributing resources sounds very democratic, there is no doubt that the faithful of the Catholic Church are a majority which has played in important role in the country, not only in the spiritual life but also in the area of social and human promotion. In conclusion, whether it is acknowledged or not, the Church has been very successful in this area.”