DAILY CATHOLIC THURSDAY February 4, 1999 vol. 10, no. 24
NEWS & VIEWS
NEW VENEZUELAN PRESIDENT CALLS SELF CATHOLIC, SOCIAL RADICAL, PRO-LIFE AS RETIRING PRESIDENT OF VENEZUELA ATTENDS TE DEUM MASS DURING LAST DAY IN OFFICE
CARACAS (CWNews.com) - Extensively quoting the Gospels, Latin American liberator Simon Bolivar, and Pope John Paul II, the new President of Venezuela Hugo Chavez took office on Tuesday in a ceremony in which he proclaimed himself Catholic, a social radical, and pro-life.
In a highly unusual speech for its length and for the fact that it was given off-the-cuff, Chavez, a retired army colonel who led an attempted military coup in 1990, referred to God as "the true Commander in Chief of all this," and proclaimed himself a "devout Catholic willing to call and integrate all religions in this effort" of recovering from the present economic crisis.
Although Chavez is divorced and remarried and therefore cannot receive Communion, he requested Archbishop Ignacio Velasco of Caracas to celebrate a Te Deum Mass prior to the installation ceremony as a way to confirm his Catholic faith. During the ceremony, Archbishop Velasco prayed to God "to guide our new President so he may fulfill his mission righteously and with prudence."
After the Mass, Chavez told Archbishop Velasco that he has expressed before Pope John Paul II "my conviction that human life and human dignity must be defended and protected from the moment of conception." In the afternoon after his installation, Chavez immediately signed a presidential decree calling for a referendum that will lead to a Constitutional Convention. Chavez said he wants to deeply reform the Venezuelan political establishment based on a bipartisanship that many believe prone to corruption.
In the social field, Chavez described himself a "radical reformist" but his signals about his economic policies have been mixed: he has kept the former government's conservative Finance Minister, but has appointed a cabinet that includes two former Communists, a former Socialist, and two well-known political journalists.
Chavez' predecessor Rafael Caldera, retiring president of Venezuela, attended yesterday's Te Deum Mass. On his last day as President of Venezuela, Caldera participated in the Eucharist celebration presided by Archbishop Ignacio Velasco of Caracas, together with other ministers of the executive cabinet as well as some retiring members from the High Military Staff. The Mass was held moments before the presidential ceremony took place in the Congress.
During the Eucharistic celebration, Archbishop Velasco
thanked God for the good direction in which the country was now
heading, requesting also that the Lord may illuminate the new
President, Hugo Chavez. Upon concluding his homily, the
Archbishop of Caracas manifested his hope in the future,
pointing out that it is "a new millennium that will open up new
horizons for the youth and the children that aspire for a future
of peace, progress and well-being."
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NEWS & VIEWS