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Venezuelan cardinal praised for civility before National Assembly

.- After Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez called Cardinal Jorge Urosa of Caracas a "neanderthal" and said that the Pope is not the ambassador of Christ on earth, Cardinal Urosa spoke before the country's National Assembly in a civil and measured way, confounding some lawmakers who predicted he would use aggressive and arrogant language.

The undersecretary of the Venezuelan Bishops’ Conference, Father Jose Gregorio Salazar, stated that “With Cardinal Urosa we have given a great lesson for the National Assembly. They thought he would address them with arrogant and aggressive language. They thought he would be insulted but nothing of the sort happened. We were prepared to speak before country or to do so in private, as happened,” he said.

The undersecretary noted the cardinal reminded lawmakers that “as a Venezuelan, he has to right to voice an opinion, and he made it clear, as St. Augustine said in his time, that with us he is Venezuelan but as pastor of the Church he is a cardinal. We cannot forget that his investiture (as a cardinal) corresponds to the dignity of a prince. And as such he spoke in a spirit of dialogue, with profound civility and absolute respect,” Father Salazar said.

“He reiterated his position with solid arguments and made it clear that he fears God and not men,” the priest continued. “When you pick on a cardinal, you are picking on the Church. The best part of his message was that once more he made it clear that we must treat each equally, whether we support Chavez or the opposition, because in the end we are all Venezuelans,” he added.

Father Salazar also referred to the accords between the Vatican and Venezuela, saying that if President Hugo Chavez wants to do away with funding for the Church’s works, he would be doing her a favor, as “what would happened is what happened recently in Spain, where the citizens are the ones who decide how much they want to voluntarily donate, and the Church’s income has increased every since.”

“Venezuela would have a Church like that of Germany, totally autonomous and strengthened because the faithful would become more aware of their duties as citizens,” the undersecretary said. “More than 90 percent of the country professes to be Catholic, let us support the Church. I am sure we would end up benefiting greatly,” he reasoned, underscoring that it was “the State that assumed the commitment of subsidizing the works, it was not from a request by the Church.”

Father Salazar concluded by reiterating the right of the bishops to voice their opinions on politics in the search for the common good, noting that recent polls show the Church enjoys a 67 percent credibility rating.  “This gives an idea of what the country believes in,” he said.

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