Venezuela Bishops Decry Attacks on Religious Images

Call Leaders to Work for End of Intolerance

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CARACAS, Venezuela, JUNE 7, 2011 (Zenit.org).- The bishops of Venezuela are speaking out against recent vandalism and destruction of religious images in the country, saying that these incidents are "unworthy of the spirit of respect."

A seven-point statement released Friday responded to incidents including a series of attacks on various religious statues, particularly in the state of Lara.

Many of the attacks were against popular images of Mary as a shepherdess, with a bullet leaving a hole in the cheek of one image and the lambs at the base of the statue being beheaded. Other statues were painted.

"These attacks are added to other similar incidents that have occurred in recent years against Catholic persons, places and symbols and those of other Christian denominations," the bishops noted. "Such actions wound the Catholic sentiment of the majority of the Venezuelan people, are unworthy of the spirit of respect, tolerance and affection for things religious, which is traditional among us, assault peaceful coexistence, negatively influence the climate of security, and endanger the enjoyment of the fundamental right of religious liberty and conscience enthroned in our Constitution."

Under the presidency of Hugo Chávez, the Church has repeatedly seen the need to speak out for religious freedom in Venezuela.

The bishops' statement added: "We invite all the sectors of society, and in particular its leaders, to work together so that violence and intolerance will disappear from spirits and hearts and give way to concord and dialogue between all citizens, regardless of their origin, race or religious creed, and simply take into account our common condition as persons called to live fraternally as children of one same Father."