Papal Envoy to Venezuela Says Cardinal’s Politics do not Represent Church

Papal Nuncio Monsignor Giacinto Berlocco said that Cardinal Castillo Lara's comments that Venezuelans should engage in civil disobedience against the Chavez government does not represent Catholic church's position and that instead of confrontation the Church and the government should work together on fighting poverty.

Caracas, Venezuela, October 24, 2005—The Pope’s representative in Venezuela, Monsignor Giacinto Berlocco, said that Venezuelan Cardinal Rosalio Castillo Lara’s recent political statements do not reflect the position of the Catholic Church in Venezuela. Over the weekend, Cardinal Castillo met with opposition representatives and said afterwards that Venezuelans ought to “deny recognition” to the Chavez government because it is, “ill-fated and dangerous.”

Cardinal Castillo said that the opposition ought to organize civil disobedience against the Chavez government, on the basis of article 350 of the Venezuelan constitution, which specifies that Venezuelans have the right to deny recognition to any government that “acts contrary to democratic values, principles, and guarantees.”

Papal Nuncio Giacinto Berlocco, said on Sunday, at the end of a mass, “As a [Venezuelan] citizen, [Cardinal Castillo] has his reasons for acting this way, but he is not representing the Church as he has not officially received any task in this sense.”

Nuncio Berlocco went on to say that in Venezuela the Catholic church is not aligned with any political party and that the Church and government ought to work together, as there are many points of agreement between the two, such as on the issue of attending to the needs of the poor. “The Church is in favor of the people and I believe that there are many areas of agreement [with the government]. There is no need to put the relationship in terms of confrontation,” said Berlocco.

Relations between the government and the upper levels of the Catholic Church hierarchy have been tense ever since Chavez was first elected in 1998. High level Church officials have always been very critical of Chavez, partly for the reduction of public funds for private schools, which affected Catholic schools, and partly for ideological reasons. During the April 2002 coup attempt, the Catholic Church’s highest representative, Cardinal Ignacio Velasco was deeply involved in the coup and was the main person who tried to persuade Chavez to sign a resignation letter while rebelling military officers detained him.