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Pope John Paul II, Venezuelan bishops reportedly at odds on ousting Chavez

June 22, 2011

The Catholic bishops of Venezuela resisted entreaties from Pope John Paul II to steer clear of efforts to oust the country's strongman, Hugo Chavez, in 2002, according to confidential documents from the US State Department made public by WikiLeaks.

The Bush administration had quietly encouraged an abortive coup in Venezuela in April 2002. Although Chavez had a long history of conflict with the Catholic Church, Pope John Paul II did not want Church leaders involved in political maneuvers. The Pope "urged the Venezuelan bishops to 'cool it' on political activism and instead to encourage dialogue," according to a cable from James Nicholson, who was US ambassador to the Vatican at the time. Nicholson told the State Department, however, that the Venezuelan bishops were resisting the Pope's instructions.

The WikiLeaks revelations do not point to any specific involvement by the Venezuelan bishops in the coup attempt. President Chavez has remained at odds with the Venezuelan hierarchy, frequently accusing the bishops of efforts to destabilize his regime.


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