Government seeking to disparage Church with death of priest, say Venezuelan bishops

.- Relations between political leaders and the Venezuelan bishops took a turn for the worse this week in the wake of the murder of Father Jorge Pinango, an official of the Bishops’ Conference, who was killed last Saturday at a hotel in Caracas.

Conference vice president, Archbishop Roberto Luckert, publicly chided Attorney General Isaias Rodriguez—appointed by President Hugo Chavez—that the investigation is not about the private life of Father Pinango but about his murder.

As the investigation into the crime was just beginning, Rodriguez told reporters that Father Pinango’s murder might have been related to a “homosexual relationship.”  Archbishop Luckert said the bishops could only go by the information that is reported in the media.  

“Up to this point we don’t know anything else besides the things being said by the Attorney General, who seems to want to smear the proceedings and confuse public opinion even more,” he said.

The archbishop explained that the bishops were not seeking “concessions with the truth” because “we understand what Scripture says: the truth will make us free, and the more clarity there is the more friendship there is.”  He noted that up to now officials have not contacted the Bishops’ Conference.  Only Archbishop Rafael Padron of Cumana was contacted by investigators to come and identify the body.

Several other bishops, including the president of the Conference, Bishop Ubaldo Santana, and Cardinal Jorge Urosa of Caracas, have expressed their support for the statements by Archbishop Luckert.

“We wish to reiterate our unanimity with regards to the statement, and we do not want this to get mixed up with any other political issue, much less with the issue of the elections or with what has happened at other times.  We wish to express our support for Archbishop Baltazar Porras and Archbishop Roberto Luckert,” Cardinal Urosa said.

The cardinal said he would not respond to each assertion that is made during the investigation, saying the statement by the bishops “was very clear” and calls for the investigation to determine who was responsible for the crime and that the work be carried out in transparent fashion.

Bishop Santana pointed to contradictions between the Attorney General and investigators, saying they showed that public officials and those involved in the investigation need to get on the same page.  “The investigation should be carried out to its final consequences, and we are willing to accept the results of the investigation, but officials must give an example of equanimity and impartiality,” he said.

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