Bishop Roberto Luckert Leon of Coro, Venezuela, responded to new attacks by the country’s president Hugo Chavez, emphasizing that the Catholic Church in Venezuela “will not be silent” in the face of aggressions.
Last Sunday in his television program, “Hello Mr. President,” Chavez responded to a recent document by the Venezuelan Bishops Conference that calls for a recall vote, saying he prays that God “will forgive the bishops.”
While clutching a statue of Jesus carrying the cross, Chavez dramatically stated: “Forgive them for forgetting the preferential option for the poor…, for aligning themselves, like Judas, with the most ominous and evil interests of the Venezuelan capitalistic oligarchy. I ask the poor to pray with me: forgive them Lord, for they know not what they do.”
Bishop Luckert underscored that despite the crisis the country is facing, the Catholic Church “will not be silenced…Chavez seeks to make the bishops afraid, but we are not afraid of the boogey man.”
Bishop Luckert said he was shocked by the reaction of the President, who he said uses the poor to create the impression that more people support him than actually do. “He breathes belligerency and confrontation, democracy scares him. When it comes to violence he is successful, but in matters of governance he is weak,” said the bishop.
He reminded the President that the bishops of Venezuela “do not wish to fight with him, or to hurt him. We wish to work for Venezuela, we want to support him, but not like this for the love of God.”
Bishop Luckert called on Chavez to submit to fair elections “to see if the people want him or not. But they are mistaken if they think he is the same as the Chavez of 1998. The people are tired and fed up with so many promises. He should get to work, not a single thing has been accomplished since he took office five years ago and a lot of money has been squandered,” he concluded.
The President of the Venezuelan Bishops Conference, Archbishop Porras, expressed regret that Chavez manipulated a religious symbol to attack the bishops, saying the President “wants to make himself the master, owner and lord over good and evil, the divine and the human…He’s like a guru or an ayatollah who thinks he speaks the divine truth about everything.”