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Venezuelan Dissident Priests Start Pro-Chavez Church

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Live by the sword, die by the sword? Liberation theology rears its rebellious head in Marxist regime of Hugo Chavez. The Catholic Church condemns the Pro-Chavez supporting priests, made up of rebelling Catholic, Anglican, and Lutherans.

Founders of the newly created Reformist Catholic Church of Venezuela, based in the western city of Ciudad Ojeda, say that supporting Chavez’s socialist ideals goes hand-in-hand with Christian aims of helping the poor.

“We don’t side with any political banner, but we cannot fail to recognize and support the socialist achievements of this government,” Enrique Albornoz, a former Lutheran minister who helped start the church, said in a telephone interview on Monday. “We back the social programs of this revolutionary government.”

A group of dissident Catholic priests, Lutherans, and Anglicans quietly formed the church several years ago, but its first three bishops were sworn in last weekend, Albornoz said.

The church has five sanctuaries in Venezuela and about 2,000 parishioners — most of them in the oil-rich western state of Zulia, he said. An iron-shuttered, concrete house of worship in a working-class neighborhood of Ciudad Ojeda serves as headquarters for the movement, which borrows heavily from liberation theology and the Church of England’s Book of Common Prayer.

Venezuelan Cardinal Jorge Urosa Sabino accused the reformists of attempting to divide the Catholic Church, which has consistently criticized Chavez’s push toward socialism while retaining its status as one of the country’s most widely trusted institutions.

“The apparent political goal of this association distances it from the true expression of Christian faith,” Urosa Savino said in a statement on Sunday. “Jesus Christ’s true church is spreading the word and the gift of Christ to the whole world, separately from political issues and party affiliation.”

Monsignor Roberto Luckert, one of Chavez’s most outspoken critics, accused the government of financing the new church in a bid to curb the influence of Roman Catholic leaders.

“They want to destroy the Catholic Church, and they haven’t been able to do it,” Luckert told Caracas-based Union Radio. The Vatican has issued no formal reaction.

Marxism Liberation Theology

Hugo Chavez Vs. The Catholic Church

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