.- Archbishop Roberto Luckert Leon of Coro, who was a target of one of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez’s infamous diatribes this week, called the president’s actions an attempt to discredit the Church as a voice of legitimate criticism.
The Venezuelan President, who is beginning his third term, has a notorious aversion to public criticism.
During his re-inaugural ceremony, Chavez gave his oft-repeated speech about the country’s “irreversible” march towards Socialism, calling Jesus “one of the greatest socialists of history” and announcing his intentions to do away with presidential term limits.
“The State respects the Church, the Church should respect the State, I do not want to return to the era of confrontation with the bishops, but it’s not my choice, it’s that of the Venezuelan bishops. I’ll be here ready to fire, in defense of the Venezuelan State,” Chavez said in his discourse.
He criticized Archbishop Luckert and called him an “example of the oligarchy in the Venezuelan Catholic Church.”
“Archbishop Lucker is going to be waiting for me in hell, he is not going to heaven. He is going to hell, I am sure that he will not go to heaven, I don’t think he will go,” Chavez stated.
“How he loves to trample upon the truth, tell lies and trample upon the figure of the head of State. That makes him happy. Be happy, Archbishop, and may God forgive you because I think that is not the way of Christ. It is the way of deceit, evil and infamy. Forgive him, Lord, perhaps he knows not what he does,” Chavez continued.
In a radio interview, Archbishop Luckert responded calmly by pointing out that Chavez’s statements “speak more about him than about his enemies,” and he expressed regret that the president seems to want to “see every institution submit to him and sing his praises.”
“The objective of the president is to discredit the Venezuelan Bishops’ Conference, but unfortunately he is not going to be able to succeed,” the archbishop said.
“Today, he sent not only me to hell, President Fox, Cardinal Castillo and the justices of the Supreme Court are going with me,” Archbishop Luckert quipped.
“It’s all part of Chavez’s personal campaign to discredit the Church in Venezuela” the archbishop went on. “But he is not going to succeed because the Church has been around for two thousand years and he is temporary. He’ll last until 2021.”
“But anyway, may the Lord grant him a long life so he can see the mess is creating in this country,” he said.
Archbishop Luckert ended his comments on a conciliatory note, praying that the Lord would "enlighten our president so that he will truly take our country down the path of progress and unity for all Venezuelans.”