Archbishop Luckert, Vice-President of the Venezuelan Bishops' Conference said on Tuesday that he fears attacks from some "fundamentalist" supporting President Hugo Chavez, as a result of the Venezuelan ruler's public diatribe.
"Given the greatness of the scenario the president used to talk to me (he talked from the Venezuelan Legislature), any pro-Chavez fundamentalist could believe he is entitled to attack me and then gain (government) tolerance," the prelate told local radio station Union Radio, as quoted by Efe.
Any Chavez' supporter "could say 'I back Chavez so much I am going to put this archbishop out of the game; I am going to teach him a lesson for him to shut up."
During his inauguration ceremony, Chavez spoke again about Venezuela's "irreversible" march towards socialism, calling Jesus "one of the greatest socialists of history" and announcing his intentions to do away with presidential term limits.
"The State respects the Church, the Church should respect the State, I do not want to return to the era of confrontation with the bishops, but it's not my choice, it's that of the Venezuelan bishops. I'll be here ready to fire, in defence of the Venezuelan State," Chavez said in his discourse.
He criticised Archbishop Luckert and called him an "example of the oligarchy in the Venezuelan Catholic Church".
"Archbishop Lucker is going to be waiting for me in hell, he is not going to heaven. He is going to hell, I am sure that he will not go to heaven, I don't think he will go," Chavez stated.
"How he loves to trample upon the truth, tell lies and trample upon the figure of the head of State. That makes him happy. Be happy, Archbishop, and may God forgive you because I think that is not the way of Christ. It is the way of deceit, evil and infamy. Forgive him, Lord, perhaps he knows not what he does," Chavez continued.
In a radio interview, Archbishop Luckert responded calmly by pointing out that Chavez's statements "speak more about him than about his enemies", and he expressed regret that the president seems to want to "see every institution submit to him and sing his praises".
"The objective of the president is to discredit the Venezuelan Bishops' Conference, but unfortunately he is not going to be able to succeed," the Archbishop said.
Catholic Archbishop fears reprisals following Chávez' criticism (El Universal, 16/1/07)
Venezuelan bishop responds to Chavez’s latest attacks on Church (Indian Catholic, 15/1/07)
LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Archbishop Roberto Luckert (Catholic-Hierarchy)
Catholic Bishops Conference of Venezuela (Spanish)
Former revolutionary wins over Church in Nicaraguan election victory (CathNews, 9/11/06)
18 Jan 2007