The relations between Venezuela and The Vatican may aggravate after Hugo Chavez's criticism of the Roman Catholic Church in general and the Pope Benedict XVI in particular.
On July 15, Chavez appeared on the air of Venezuela's national television with an angry speech. The president of Venezuela stated that Benedict XVI was not the ambassador of Christ on earth.
"With all due respect to the Vatican and to the pope, who despite what they say is no ambassador on earth for Christ," Chavez said. "Christ doesn't need an ambassador. Christ is in the people," he said. He also added that he considered himself both a Christian and a Marxist.
Most likely, The Vatican will accuse Chavez of blasphemy. One of the postulates of Catholicism says that the Pope is the ambassador of God on earth. There is also a dogma about the infallibility of the Pontiff.
In addition, Chavez stated that the Roman Catholic Church had too much influence and power in the country.
Over 90 percent of the population of Venezuela consider themselves Catholics. Chavez is one of them. He repeatedly crossed himself in public, for example during his speech at the UN four years ago when he labeled US President Bush the "devil".
At the same time, the Venezuelan leader is a champion of radical ideology and considers himself a follower of atheists Lev Trotsky and Che Guevara. The Catholic Church stands traditionally against radical ideas. Chavez in his turn believes that bishops want to undermine his authority.
Chavez's relations with the church were ruined in April 2002, during attempted coup in Venezuela. Former Archbishop of Caracas Ignacio Velasco said that the toppling of Chavez was legal. Hugo Chavez returned to power in only three days, and the coup failed. He later said that the Velasco's remarks were morally unacceptable for the people, for the church, for Catholics and for Christians. Chavez believes that the church should not interfere into affairs of the state.
In 2005, Hugo Chavez argued with Cardinal Rosalio Castillo after the latter called Chavez a paranoid dictator" who needs "an exorcism." Speaking about the condition in the country, the cardinal stated that there was no democracy in Venezuela. Chavez fired back calling the cardinal a "bandit who has the devil inside him."
The conflict between the President and the Church escalated again in 2007, when Venezuela was planning a referendum to change the constitution to let the head of state run for presidency for as many terms as possible.
A prelate from Honduras Oscar Rodriguez accused Chavez of authoritarianism. He latter called the cleric an "imperialist clown and a parrot." Venezuela's bishops stated that the reforms of the constitution were unacceptable because it would allow the president to hold all power, which would inevitably lead to authoritarianism in the country. Chavez stated that it was the bishops who were morally unacceptable.
The attempt to change the constitution in 2007 failed, but Chavez accomplished his goal in the beginning of 2009. Afterwards, the president wished to exclude religion as a subject from the schools of Venezuela.
Chavez stated that he would not change his decision because education is supposed to create new individuals, members of the socialist society.
Another scandal broke out in May of this year. The followers of the Venezuelan president plastered placards in the streets of Caracas, depicting Madonna and the Savior holding weapons in their hands. Archbishop Jorge Urosa of Caracas stated that the church was seriously concerned about the use of the images of saints to propagandize violence and political goals.
All of the above-mentioned scandals occurred inside Venezuela. This time, however, Chavez may trigger a huge scandal with The Vatican.
Maksim Shevchenko, a Russian TV host, a scientist of politics, said in an interview with Pravda.Ru that he shared Hugo Chavez's views.
"I agree with what he said because the Pope indeed can not the ambassador on God on earth. God sent Jesus Christ to earth to create the church, but there was nothing there about ambassadors. God does not need any ambassadors because each and everyone will face God on Judgment Day equally, without any ambassadors," the scientist said.
Grigory Amnuel, the CEO of Open Dialogue international club shares a different point of view.
"Chavez is nobody to speak about the persona of the Pope. The Holy See anathematized communism and all of its branches more than 100 years ago. Most likely, The Vatican will not pay any attention to Chavez. Chavez is not the first politician who dared to speak about the holiness of the Pope. He is too small a figure to deserve the Pontiff's attention," he sad.