Chavez, Venezuelan church clash over freedoms

Prez Hugo Chavez and leaders of the Venezuelan Catholic Church are tangling like never before, angering parishioners who feel the president and his clerical detractors aren`t following Jesus Christ`s creed of brotherly love.

Last Updated: Jul 12, 2010, 10:58 AM IST

Caracas: President Hugo Chavez and leaders of the Venezuelan Catholic Church are tangling like never before, angering parishioners who feel the president and his clerical detractors aren`t following Jesus Christ`s creed of brotherly love.

Over the past week, Chavez has said that Christ would whip church leaders for lying. Cardinal Jorge Urosa countered he was right to warn the Vatican that Chavez is curbing
freedoms.

Some parishioners are concerned over the tensions between Chavez and conservative priests, who are speaking out against what they see as the socialist leader`s increasing
authoritarianism.
Venezuela is overwhelmingly Roman Catholic. Polls consistently show the church, which wields significant influence, is among the nation`s most respected institutions.

"I don`t like the insults that Chavez hurled against the cardinal, but I don`t like seeing the Church getting involved in politics either," said Amanda Ortiz, 47, after going to Sunday Mass at a church in downtown Caracas.

"Both sides are losing respect for each other."
During one recent speech, Chavez accused Urosa of misleading the Vatican with warnings that Venezuela is drifting toward dictatorship.

PTI