After speaking against alleged government misconduct, human rights abuses and delay of free elections, Catholic churches and clergy around Venezuela are facing a wave of protests from pro-government supporters.
A string of incidents began on the morning of Jan. 29, as supporters of the current government interrupted a Mass at San Pedro Claver Church in a poor neighborhood of Caracas, Reuters reported.
The crowd of around 20 people hurled insults at the clergy, calling them “Satan in a cassock!” and “Fascist!” The protesters also used the chant “Chavez lives!” – in honor of late president and former leader of the ruling Socialist party, Hugo Chavez.
The bishops’ strong stance against the current Venezuelan government – and other opinions echoed by priests around the country– has prompted backlash not only in the capital of Caracas, but in around the country. The cathedral of Caracas was hit with rocks, and protestors went to the home of the Archbishop Antonio Lopez of Barquisimeto after he said in a speech that socialism has brought “misery” to the country.
The same day as the protests in the Caracas parish of San Pedro Claver, police interrupted Mass in the city of Maracaibo. In the last week of January, gun-toting robbers attacked, threatened monks and stole from a Trappist monastery in the state of Merida.
Current head of the Venezuelan Episcopal Conference, Archbishop Diego Padron, told Reuters that “this list, in my opinion, shows they are not isolated events.”