Catholic Church in Venezuela
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The Roman Catholic Church in Venezuela comprises nine archdioceses, three vicarates, a military ordinariate, and two Eastern Rite exarchates under the spiritual leadership of the Pope, the Curia in Rome and the Venezuelan Bishops Conference.
According to one source, there are around twenty million active Roman Catholics representing about 75% of the total population. According to The World Factbook, 2009, 96% of the population is Roman Catholic. .
Since Vatican II, The Roman Catholic Church in Venezuela has been weakened by a lack of diocesan and religious vocations. Many priests serving in Venezuela are foreign-born. Before Hugo Chavez's government took power, charismatic Protestant churches began to successfully proselytize, especially among the urban poor. However, this has diminished in recent years. In the past, the Catholic Church did not have the funds, the personnel, or the enthusiasm to stem effectively this new challenge to its hegemony, but it believed it faced a greater threat with the new government of Hugo Chavez.
Although President Chavez self-identifies as a practicing Roman Catholic, his policies have concerned the Venezuelan Roman Catholic hierarchy, especially in the area of religious education. Besides its universities and colleges, the Roman Catholic Church also administers some 700 other schools throughout the country, mostly subsidized by the State of Venezuela. In 2007, Cardinal Jorge Urosa, the Archbishop of Caracas, called for peaceful demonstrations against any direct government involvement in overseeing the Church's administration of schools. The Church has also been critical of the government for wanting to remove religious education from public schools during normal school hours.
The Catholic Church in Venezuela heavily focuses on the veneration of the Virgin Mary. This is exemplified by such figures as the Virgen de Coromoto in Portuguesa State, Virgen del Valle in Nueva Esparta and Virgen de Chiquinquirá in the western part of the country.
- "Venezuela," CIA Factbook, 2009
- Edward Cleary, "Shopping Around: Questions About Latin American Conversions," International Bulletin of Missionary Research Vol. 28, No. 2, April, 2004, pp 50-54.
- Colin Harding, "Chavez attack on religious education resisted," The Tablet, 6 January, 2007, 33
- Colin Harding, "Accusations fly as priest is found dead," The Tablet, 6 May, 2006, 31.
- article on Catholicism in Venezuela