Venuezuelan president Hugo Chavez died ‘clinging to Christ’

Hugo Chavez, the socialist president who transformed Venezuela while oppressing Catholic institutions in the 96 per cent Catholic country, reportedly died in “the bosom of the Church” on March 5.

The Catholic News Agency said Chavez received spiritual direction and the sacraments in his last days, and Vice President Nicolas Maduro said he died “clinging to Christ”.

Chavez’s 14-year rule was marked by increasingly hostile relations with the Venezuelan Catholic bishops, who frequently warned of the risks and excesses of his socialist agenda, including violations of religious freedom.

In 2002 he accused the bishops of being a “tumour” for his revolutionary goals and demanded that the Vatican not intervene in the internal affairs of the country.

Venezuela has been on the “Watch List” of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom since 2009.

In its 2012 report, the commission said violations of religious freedom included “the government’s failure to investigate and hold accountable perpetrators of attacks on religious leaders and houses of worship, and virulent rhetoric from President Hugo Chavez, government officials, state media, and pro-Chavez media directed at the Venezuelan Jewish and Catholic communities”.

The commission also reported that the government had begun wire-tapping the telephones of some Catholic leaders, expropriated some Catholic churches, schools and community centres and prohibiting Church representatives from visiting prisoners for humanitarian or spiritual reasons.

On Holy Thursday last year, shortly before his third surgery for cancer, Chavez attended a Mass and pleaded for his life. “I ask God to give me life, however painful. I can carry 100 crosses, your crown of thorns, but don’t take me yet. I still have things to do,” he said.

On several occasions the bishops of Venezuela had called on their people to pray for the health of the president.

Cardinal Jorge Urosa Savino, the Catholic archbishop of Caracas, has said he will celebrate a funeral Mass for Chavez in Rome, where he is to attend the conclave to elect a new pope.


Catholic News Agency

Catholic News Service


Image: El Universal

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