Maduro/Pope
© Andreas Solaro/AFP
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and Pope Francis in the Vatican, June 2013.
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said that his countrymen are fleeing the Catholic Church en masse because they have grown tired of "politicized" bishops. Maduro, in a speech, broadcast live on state TV on Friday, stated:
"I want to tell you, dear Pope Francis, we now have the data that Venezuelans have been leaving Catholicism. Nearly 40 percent are declaring themselves Evangelicals. That number used to be 3 percent."
Maduro stressed that people are getting "tired" of bishops who "use pulpits to express their political obsessions." Some clergymen "act like militants, not like pastors," he added.

The president had previously called on the local Catholic Church to stop being "involved into politics," and harshly criticized religious figures for holding events with Western-backed opposition leader Juan Guaido, who was declared interim president by anti-Maduro politicians in January last year. Some bishops have openly urged Maduro to step down during his standoff with Guaido.

"Bishops must learn to respect the people who don't want to see pulpits politicized," the president said during his state-of-the-nation address earlier this week.