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CARACAS, Venezuela – Venezuelan Cardinal Jorge Urosa Savino appeared before representatives of the Venezuelan National Assembly for five hours on July 27.
The legislators, the majority of whom are members of President Hugo Chávez’s political party, demanded Urosa Savino explain his critical comments to the local media regarding the socialist orientation of the government.
“I stand by the fact that as Venezuelan bishops, we have the right and the obligation to speak about aspects that have to do with the public life of Venezuela, it’s not about seeking power or forming alliances with political entities,” said Urosa Savino to TV channel Globovisión following the meeting, which took place behind closed doors.
“I came ready to listen to his reflections,” Cilia Flores, president of the Venezuelan National Assembly, told Globovisión. “We listened to [his] ideas for several hours in a tranquil environment.”
During the debate, the prelate read a document and berated the unconstitutional nature of some of the laws approved by the Assembly. “The Marxist state is totalitarian and unconstitutional,” Urosa Sabino said.
The Cardinal named eight laws that in his judgment violate the Constitution of 1999: the Federal Council on Government Law, the reform of the Decentralization Law, the Education Law, the National Bolivarian Armed Forces Law, the Law on the Organization and Regime of the Capital District, the Indepabis (Institute for the Defense of People to Access Goods and Services) Law, the Electoral Processes Law, and the proposed bill on organizing communes.
“These laws affect the political pluralism that is fundamental for a democratic life,” the Cardinal said, according to the Venezuelan daily El Universal.
Leading the country down the Marxist path, Urosa Savino said, means brushing aside the basic principles that guide our society and ends up instituting an obligatory ideology for all citizens.
“It’s inconsistent with the spirit and text of the Constitution, which speaks about the social state of law and justice and advocates for political pluralism as one of its fundamental values,” Urosa Sabino said.
The Cardinal said that Venezuela could be following the path of socialist and Marxist states with totalitarian regimes such as the former Soviet Union and Cuba.
“I didn’t say anything new,” said the prelate after the meeting. “The President [Hugo Chávez] has confirmed being a Marxist on various occasions.”
But Flores told the press that an agreement between Venezuela and the Vatican stipulates that the clergy should not speak out about politics.
“It has been established that his objections are political,” Flores told Globovisión. “This implies and infers that they [the clergy] cannot be involved in or take political positions, and the Cardinal is doing so.”
But Urosa Savino said in the past the Catholic Church has taken positions on issues that affect the nation.
“We don’t close ourselves up in the sacristy or hide behind the incense of the ceremonies,” Urosa Savino said. “We are bishops of a live and active Church, committed to the people.”
Flores said the Cardinal separated himself from the Catholic hierarchy and operated as a political actor against the government and against the National Assembly.
“[He] said that he was speaking as a citizen (…), but he brought a written report (…) from which he read that he was speaking as a religious leader [on behalf of] the five million Catholics in Caracas,” Flores said.
To view the document (in Spanish) Cardinal Jorge Urosa Savino presented to the Venezuelan National Assembly, click here.