Nicolas Maduro, Vice-President of Venezuela, who was appointed personally by the deceased President to succeed him and who will call elections in 30 days, announced the Venezuelan leader’s death yesterday afternoon. President Chavez, 58, died of cancer at 4:25 pm in the Military Hospital of Caracas.
“Cardinal Urosa, archbishop of Caracas, will celebrate a solemn funeral Mass in Rome at a date and place to be announced shortly. All Venezuelans who wish to do so, are invited to attend the religious ceremony to pray for the eternal rest of President Chavez,” the communique stated
The cardinal expressed “his condolences” to the deceased President’s family and urged that, given his death, “the mechanisms provided in the Constitution be applied,” and that all sectors foster “the calm and harmony of the population.”
For his part, hours earlier the secretary general of the Venezuelan Episcopal Conference, auxiliary Bishop Jesus Gonzalez de Zarate of Caracas, made an appeal for “national unity” on addressing the “painful event” of the President’s death. “At this time, let us all express are best sentiments,” said the prelate in a phone interview to the television program “Hello Citizen,” of the local channel Globovision. The bishop then reminded that “death is not the end of our life; death opens the way to a fully happy life, with God our Father.”
On several occasions in the past, the bishops of Venezuela appealed to the people for prayers for the President.
In February, at the beginning of Lent, Cardinal Urosa encouraged the faithful to pray for Chavez’s recovery. “God wants our prayer to be more alive and for this year the Church proposes reading the Word of God. But, in addition, we must attend Holy Mass which is the memorial of the glorious Resurrection of Jesus Christ,” he said on that occasion.
The Catholic Church in Venezuela also prayed for peace, calm and harmony in the country after the sad news. “I have just heard the sad news of the death of the President of the Republic, Hugo Rafael Chavez Frias, for whom I pray to the Lord for his soul’s eternal rest,” Cardinal Urosa said from Rome to the State channel Vale TV.
After sending his condolences to the family, friends and followers of the President, cardinal Urosa supported the “appeal for peace and calm and the rejection of violence” made by the government. “And I pray that good sense and harmony will reign in the country over the coming days,” he said.
For his part, Archbishop Diego Padron, president of the Venezuelan Episcopal Conference (CEV), said in statements on radio 780 AM: “The CEV joins the Venezuelan government and State in sharing this painful situation of the death of the President of the Republic and joins all the Venezuelan people because he was the President of all Venezuelans.”
He also called for calm in the population. “The CEV is ready to cooperate so that national life can unfold with great good sense, serenity and calm in a situation that is difficult to manage. We call on the Venezuelan people to maintain, as they have up to now, good sense and good conduct.”
He avoided being specific about who should be Venezuela’s interim President. “All this is established in the Constitution and up to now we haven’t witnessed any conflicts. The Constitution has already pointed out the way,” he specified.
The Venezuelan government will hold a State funeral in memory of the deceased President Hugo Chavez on Friday, March 8, informed on Tuesday night the Vice-President and Foreign Minister, Elias Jaua, who also declared seven days of official mourning.
The ceremony will be held at 10:00 am (local time) at Caracas’ Military Academy, in the same place where the funeral chapel will be installed today. The President’s body will be taken there from the hospital where he spent the last two weeks. The funeral cortege will go through the streets of the Venezuelan capital in what is expected to be attended by many.