ROME—A day after the Vatican’s Secretary of State called on the Venezuelan government to suspend a Constituent Assembly to re-write its Constitution, President Nicolás Maduro told Argentine radio that he thinks Italian Cardinal Pietro Parolin’s position on the country is “regrettable.”
According to Maduro, Pope Francis’s right hand man has succumbed to the “violence against the Bolivarian Revolution, Venezuela’s legitimate government and Venezuela as a whole.
“The hierarchy of the Catholic Church in the country has traditionally been allied to the sectors that held onto powers and privileges, and destroyed the country for almost a century,” Maduro said, speaking to little-known Radio Rebelde of Buenos Aires.
The bishops have openly opposed the assembly, calling it “illegal and invalid,” claiming it’s against the best interests of the Venezuelan people.
Maduro also said that “one thing is us, Catholics, the people of Christ; another is the trajectory of Pope Francis as a defendant of the peoples with his humility, and another very different one is the structure of the Vatican’s Secretary of State, the bureaucracy.”
Maduro also said that the members of the Venezuelan bishops’ conference are “militants” of the opposition, and accused them of allowing churches to hold political events.
“When I meet with the bishops, I always ask them why aren’t you shepherds of all, why do you only tend to one political sector of society?” Maduro said.
According to the president, there has been a degeneration of religious leadership in Venezuela, which has influenced the political position of the Vatican’s Secretary of State.
Back in May, Maduro criticized the Catholic bishops in his country, claiming they’re ignoring Pope Francis’s repeated calls for dialogue by refusing to support a national assembly intended to re-write Venezuela’s constitution.
The assembly, which opened its sessions yesterday after it was passed through a fraudulent vote on Sunday, is expected to give Maduro the power to rule through decree, virtually turning his government into a dictatorship. During its opening session, the assembly voted to sack top prosecutor Luisa Ortega.
Ortega, a vocal critic of the left-wing government, had opposed the assembly’s inauguration on Friday, citing allegations of voting fraud.
Soon after Maduro’s attack on the bishops, the prelates came to Rome, where they met with Francis, who told them that “he’s very close to us and very well informed about the situation of Venezuela, and very close to the suffering of the people,” according to Archbishop Diego Padrón, president of the Venezuelan Bishops’ Conference.
[Note: Due to a translation error, an earlier version of this article used the English word “pathetic” rather than “regrettable.”]