The president of the Bishops’ Conference of Venezuela, Archbishop Ubaldo Santana of Maracaibo, said this week the bishops have already asked for a meeting with President Hugo Chavez but are still awaiting a positive response.
Archbishop Santana stated that the bishops are convinced that there is an “urgent need for dialogue,” not only between the Church and the State, but also between different sectors of Venezuelan society.
Speaking with reporters, the archbishop said, “When we ask to be heard and to discuss ways of finding paths of understanding and reconciliation, we want to do so not only to be heard, but also in order to create a culture of dialogue in our Venezuelan society, in order to at least intensify it because I think this attitude of sitting down with one another is very much engrained in Venezuelans.”
Archbishop Santana said the main stumbling block in Church-State relations is that some segments of the government misunderstand the role of the bishops and they do not realize that the pastors “speak in the name of 90% of Catholics.”
The bishops, he continued, “are the legitimate pastors of the Catholic Church and within Catholic doctrine we know that there can be no Church without the faithful and there can be no Church without the bishops.”
In this sense, he said, “the bishops practice politics with a capital P, the kind that takes everyone into account and seeks the good of all.” “Politics is one of the elements of society, it is not the decisive element nor is it the monopolizer of the other dimensions of social life,” he continued, adding that, “When we speak of politics we always distinguish between politics as the art of the common good, and politics as the strategy for gaining power and control of a determined sector of society. These are two very different things,” the archbishop said.
Archbishop Santana also commented on the insults that President Hugo Chavez leveled against Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga of Tegucigalpa, Honduras. According to the archbishop, Chavez spoke out of ignorance of the work of Cardinal Maradiaga, who is the current head of Caritas International, a Catholic ministry of outreach to the poor and needy of the world.