In an interview with the Catholic News Agency, Archbishop Jorge Urosa Sabino of Caracas, who will be made a cardinal by Pope Benedict in March, said the main challenge facing the Church in Venezuela is that of “evangelization” and that there is an urgent need to work together to overcome the roots of division that are affecting the country.
What was your reaction to news of your appointment, being the only Latin American bishop to be chosen by the Pope?
“One of immense gratitude to God and to Pope Benedict XVI, but at the same time of great humility because I believe it is an honor that the Holy Father wished to confer on the Church in Caracas and in Venezuela at a time in which it needs support. But also one of fear of trembling because belonging to the College of Cardinals implies a life of greater perfection, greater consecration to the Lord, of service in fidelity to the Holy Father and the Church. I can identify greatly with the Church in Latin America, with CELAM, with my brother bishops and archbishops and certainly my work will reflect that fraternal bond we all have as Catholics and in particular as bishops of Latin America.”
What is the role of the Church in Venezuela’s upcoming elections in December?
“In Venezuela the Church is called to be a source of unity at a time in which there is much division, discord and distrust. We have the task of working to overcome these divisions, so that this distrust is diminished and love, trust and harmony are fostered among all Venezuelans. This is the task that from a social point of view corresponds to the Church, to the bishops, and to me as a cardinal.”
How do you see the relationship between Church and State in Venezuela? What are your expectations and hopes in this area?
My hope is that a climate of understanding and dialogue will cool things down, as hot tempers do nothing to contribute to the country’s progress. We hope for greater serenity and harmony, that the different political sectors will be more understanding instead of constantly confronting one another, that there may be a greater tendency to build bridges for solving the serious problems Venezuela is facing, and that there would be a political agreement to return public trust to the Venezuelan electoral system.
I wish to call on all Venezuelans to fully live the glorious Christian faith that we have, which leads us to a life of love, working for justice, for solidarity, for the poor with great zeal and generosity, so that the name, the love and the glory of Jesus Christ, our Lord, be made present in the world.
We know the challenges for the Church in the world are great, but what are the specific challenges facing the Church in Venezuela?
The main challenge is that of evangelization. In a country in which the population has increased greatly in recent years there is a need for deep evangelization, that New Evangelization which the Holy Father John Paul II spoke about, and of course, there is a need for renewal in the Church in the spirit of the Plenary Council which concluded in August of 2005, the conclusions of which, once approved by the Holy See, will be implemented in order to spurn growth and spiritual renewal full of the paschal joy, with truly apostolic enthusiasm in all sectors of the Church in Venezuela.
How do you see the situation of the Church in Venezuela?
The Church is alive, moving forward, and working hard—of course with the problems we have because of a shortage of priests and religious, but the Church is moving. We have always been well received and given great credibility by the Venezuelan people, such that conditions are ripe for us to continue working for the evangelization, for the poor and for that fundamental renewal of the Church in our country.